In the days leading up to tonight’s home game against Bowling Green, the men’s basketball team was on a mission — recruit and promote.
But the team obviously wasn’t looking for more players. Recruiting fans to fill the 5,300 seats of McGuirk Arena was the goal as Mid-American Conference play tips off.
On Monday and Tuesday, the men’s basketball team was split up into three groups, and, on both nights, different groups ate dinner and socialized with the students in the dinning halls around campus.
“It’s really important to Coach Davis for the players to realize they are more than students and athletes,” said assistant coach Jeff Smith. “They’re also part of the larger campus community. Having dinner and passing out fliers is a great way to spend time with other students and talk with them about the importance of showing up (to games) and being part of what we are trying to build.”
Finding a way to pack stands has been a priority for head coach Keno Davis since his arrival, assistant coach Jeff Smith said, and interacting with students to build ties was one way the staff decided to incorporate in hopes of drawings fans to the games.
One aspect of what Smith, Keno and the rest of the coaches are trying to build is an energetic crowd to make McGuirk Arena “the toughest place to play in the MAC.”
Senior guard Kyle Randall said handing out fliers and getting attendance up helps build the atmosphere when the team is on the court.
“We feed off the energy the students bring,” Randall said. “We gain extra confidence knowing our fans are behind us cheering us on.”
Smith said the men’s basketball program is on track to have the biggest student attendance in a decade, which he attributes to Davis reaching out to the student body in various ways to increase involvement from the campus.
Tonight’s game will be the first home game since December.
“We had pretty good crowds at home when we last played,” said freshman forward John Simons. “We’re just hoping we can continue to add-on and make it bigger.”
Simons handed out hundreds of fliers, talked and ate with students and said he was confident at least some of those people would come to the game.
Sybil Jacob, a Shelby Township junior, stopped and chatted with players outside the Fresh Food Company on Tuesday night and said she will attend tonight’s game.
“I think the basketball team is doing a great job with promoting the team,” Jacob said. “When students get to know the players, they feel a commitment to go to the games and root for them.”
The Chippewas take on Bowling Green at 7 p.m. in McGuirk Arena.