Two years ago, when friends and family would ask about my college aspirations, there was a common response when I replied with my intentions of going to Gonzaga University: “Oh, they’re really good at basketball, aren’t they?” I would confirm their beliefs, and that would be the extent of the conversation.
Sure, maybe they weren’t aware of the outstanding academic departments, where the school was located, or even how to pronounce “Gonzaga” correctly, but at least they knew the men’s basketball team wasn’t half bad.
Essentially, this limited knowledge of GU can be applied to a majority of the general population outside of Spokane, even Jimmy Kimmel admitted his suspicion that GU wasn’t a real university.
Obviously we students (hopefully) have a more extensive understanding of the school we attend daily, but sticking with the athletic theme, there isn’t much of a diverse fan base outside of hoops.
Sports like baseball, soccer and tennis are often neglected despite fan opportunities to watch the games and matches, while others like rowing, golf and cross country experience even less viewership.
Students will spend hours lined outside of the McCarthey Athletic Center in extreme weather conditions to watch basketball, but have no desire to watch an indoor tennis match with no hassle involved.
So, why is that?
A competition gap could be a reason why fans clamor to the dominant men’s basketball team compared to other sports who struggle in the West Coast Conference. While women’s hoops are in the same boat as their male counterparts in terms of play, other GU sports don’t quite have that luxury.
None of the aforementioned teams have consistent excellence that would attract fandom, and when there’s one team that outperforms their competition, students are going to expect the same from other sports as well.
But, when considering the quality of training the men’s basketball team receives compared to other GU athletics, the skill gap becomes understandable. The Volkar Center, the prized $24 million facility built in 2018, is home to a weight room, nutrition center and of course a hardwood court for hoops. Despite the variety of amenities, it’s the exclusive home to the men’s basketball team.
Meanwhile, the rest of the teams on campus can workout in the small training room located in the Martin Center. The area, which is smaller than the Rudolf Fitness Center, has nowhere near the amount of space or features that the Volkar Center boasts.
It’s insane to even think Division I athletes are expected to condition themselves in such an environment, especially when there’s a state-of-the-art facility located in the same vicinity.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking, the basketball team is what brings in a large amount of the funds, so they should have it to themselves. Well, that’s not how disbursement typically works when it comes to college athletics.
For example, for every round of the NCAA tournament the basketball team advances through, the WCC receives a portion of that revenue created and distributes it to other teams in the conference. Needless to say, the funds GU receives are also handled throughout the athletic department.
It’s time for the university to put more effort in not only advertising and promoting the other teams on campus, but they also deserve the proper training they require.
Recruiting in college athletics has been driven by having top-notch weight rooms and facilities, another reason why performance and quality of training go hand-in-hand. Not many high school athletes are drawn toward weight rooms that are smaller than the student fitness center.
The lack of representation and quality performance from non-basketball programs at GU is a reflection of the culture that exists on campus. From students to administration, the support that the men’s basketball team receives cannot be said for the remaining sports and their athletes.
It’s time to change that narrative and unite these athletic programs. If we truly are Zags, then we need to support other Zags as well.
All of them.