Look, there are plenty of occasions to go in on USF students for not showing up to sporting events. Tuesday afternoon’s basketball game against Florida College, however, was not one of them, and there are several reasons why:
USF really did not want to resort to playing this game
Nate wrote about the various attempts the athletic department made to fill the scheduling hole that formed when the Charlotte game in December was canceled by a snowstorm. The 49ers couldn’t commit to a makeup date because Conference USA uses flex scheduling at the end of the season, and their opponents and travel situation were unclear until this week.
According to TDS sources, USF then tried to work with various power conference schools to schedule a one-off game that would have been played around this time, but none of the talks panned out. Next they petitioned the NCAA to let their exhibition game win against Tampa from way back in October count in the standings, but the Bulls were denied there, too. This game was their final option.
Florida College is an NAIA school. USF knew the game probably wouldn’t be competitive. (They were right — the Bulls won 95-54 without using David Collins or Laquincy Rideau.) Remember last fall, when women’s soccer had a couple games canceled because of a hurricane and hastily scheduled Florida College so they wouldn’t go a month between games? They beat the Falcons 11-0 and set a mess of cheap school records in the process. It was kind of embarrassing, really, and I’m sure USF didn’t feel good about having played the game. Which leads to the next point...
USF barely promoted this game at all
If the 4:00 p.m. tipoff on a Tuesday afternoon wasn’t enough of a hint, the lack of promotion of the game was another one. USF waited about as long as they could to even admit they had scheduled Florida College. There was no advertising — just a couple live PA reads at the Temple game — and barely any social media hype. They didn’t even charge for tickets. USF wasn’t too excited to be playing this game in the first place, and so they treated it like an open-door scrimmage, which is essentially what it was.
Florida College really, really wanted to play this game
If you’re an NAIA school no one has ever heard of, and suddenly the Division I program two miles away is having a good season and needs to fill a date and wants to know if you’re free for a game... how fast would you say yes? They were all over this opportunity. Nate waited until February 6 to report that the game was on, but he saw that Florida College had it on their schedule at least two weeks before that.
Their school mobilized big time for this game
Florida College only has about 550 students. They don’t have hundreds of classes scheduled at all hours of the day, the game was 10 minutes away, and the tickets were free. It was easy for them to call off school for the afternoon, get most or all of their students on buses, and head over to the Yuengling Center to watch their team play. Not only that, but this was probably the biggest sporting event ever for Florida College. They just joined the NAIA two years ago. Now they’re playing basketball against a power conference Division I team? No wonder their fans were so lit. It was like when USF goes to play football in Gainesville or Tallahassee — everyone wants to go up there and be part of the excitement.
And that’s not even getting into the kind of school Florida College is. It’s a different kind of place appealing to a very specific kind of person, with a strict code of conduct that makes BYU look like Arizona State. I wouldn’t have lasted an hour at Florida College. But the kind of people who go to a school like that are fiercely loyal students and alumni. This was the biggest stage they’ve ever had to go somewhere and prove it. Of course they were going to show out.
With all those factors in play, I really can’t understand why anyone would try attendance shaming USF students yesterday. If you want to go in on student basketball attendance, you should ask where everyone was for the Temple game. That was a truly important game, on campus, on a Saturday evening, and early enough that you could still go out partying afterwards. There were no excuses not to be there, yet the student turnout was still pitiful. That’s the time to ask why students can’t be bothered to attend games — when you give them everything they should want and they still don’t show up.
But if you want to make a big deal about students not coming to a burnoff game on a Tuesday afternoon that USF would have been happy to have never played at all? Then you might be complaining just to complain.