Pepperdine University is not known for sports.
First of all, we don’t have football. And our men’s basketball team hasn’t appeared in the NCAA Tournament for 12 years. Our women’s team has experienced a slightly shorter eight-year NCAA Tournament drought.
We’re known for the gorgeous Pacific Ocean views, easy beach access and “hottest college students.”
It’s not that we don’t have talented student-athletes — sophomore Taylor Alvarado played for the U-20 Mexican National Team this past summer and junior Marissa Chow competed in the U.S. Women’s Open — it’s just that our student body often has other commitments that take precedence over sports (or something like that).
With the exception of men’s basketball facing Gonzaga or women’s soccer charging deep into the NCAA playoffs, sporting event attendance is usually pretty dismal.
It’s not for a lack of effort on behalf of our Athletics Department. They do numerous giveaways: t-shirts, retro basketball jerseys, soccer scarves, KFC meals, burritos, sporting good store gift cards, pizza — and the free swag options have only gotten increasingly creative during my time here.
There’s even a new RipTide program where every time you go to a game you have your ID scanned, which racks up points if you register online. At the end of last year the student at the top of the leaderboard won an i-Pad.
You could say that maybe students still aren’t at games because they’d rather be at Coffee House or in class or working or tied up in Greek life.
I think it’s simple: We have no football team, our basketball teams have never consistently boasted winning records and baseball isn’t hyped.
To solve this issue, I have a proposition. Instead of pouring money into men’s basketball, why not increase the seating at our sports “arenas”? Doubling the seating space might sound completely crazy considering our current attendance rates. However, I believe that if we build it, people will come.
Perhaps I’m delusional, but if I were a top-notch athlete choosing a school I’d rather go to the one with potential for building a fan base rather than the one with no room for a massive fan base to sit.
It would take a lot of money and an even greater amount of faith, but the saying goes that risks yield rewards. No matter how many free food or Pepperdine gear promotions Athletics doles out, I don’t see anything changing anytime soon.
Larger than life facilities is what we need. The truth is that students will not rally around mediocre teams in a small school atmosphere.
A prime example is Dayton University. Their undergrad population is about 7,000 yet their gym can hold up to around 13,000 — nearly double the student body numbers. Last season their men’s basketball team took off on a Cinderella run into the Elite Eight.
Dayton’s campus went absolutely nuts throughout the team’s postseason success. I hope one day Pepperdine students can feel that. Our academics and location is unmatchable. We simply need to shed the small school mentality.
I also understand we have sound-sensitive, high profile Malibu residents surrounding campus. Sports trumps.