Column: Student fans need more support from university
All is right in the world again, as UConn coach Jim Calhoun pulled off one of the best coaching jobs of all time, at the tender age of 68, to crown the scenic state land grant of Storrs the capital of the college basketball universe.
Although the inept offense of the title game may be viewed as an ugly end to an exciting season in the nation's eyes, nothing was more beautiful to the state of Connecticut than Butler bricking shot after shot. Not to overshadow the Huskies' accomplishments by any means, but at the request of some students, as well as various posts on Facebook and Twitter, something needs to be said.
The empty chairs that dominated the 884-seat UConn student section were sad. So sad, in fact, that Reliant Stadium personnel told me that for the national championship game, Rice and University of Houston student-athletes were given tickets in the section to make it look full and respectable for television. A sign in the Butler section read that the school in Indianapolis was one-fifth the size, but had five times the heart.
I've never read anything so untrue in my life. There is no heart larger than that of a Husky. For proof, just look at the team.
Unfortunately for UConn students, however, the other three schools' administrations helped them get down to Houston. There was no real travel package for UConn students. Aside from the $25 ticket, no buses or reduced airfare were provided. Hence, the empty seats in the semifinal. Virginia Commonwealth didn't have that problem. From talking to a lot of their fans, who are about the nicest people you could ever meet, by the way, VCU provided a lottery that gave 200 students a free bus ride, hotel room and ticket. The other 664 paid only $25 for a hotel through Monday night and game tickets. They had to find their own transportation though. All in all, that sounds like a pretty sweet deal. And the Rams fans cherished the experience, supporting UConn in the national championship. VCU kids even snuck in our student section to support us. I even let them borrow a couple Husky jerseys for the game so they'd look the part. And they returned them to me.
Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway is a nice guy. I know his plate is full right now, but a plan should be in place for next April in New Orleans. A cheap bus or some kind of transportation should be provided so anyone who wants to go to the Final Four will be able to do so. Make it a humanitarian effort. Coordinate a relief trip on that Sunday. Students can help out people still suffering the effects of Hurricane Katrina at day and celebrate on Bourbon Street Monday night.
The UConn students cannot be held accountable for the attendance shortcoming. How is it their fault? A college student's budget is small to begin with, and one can't blame a peer for staying in Storrs and partying after the national championship game. Aside from that, classes should have been cancelled. When Alabama won the national title in football a couple years ago, classes were cancelled for a week. Granted, Alabama didn't get as many snow days as we did, but the Huskies winning the national championship has only happened three times.
Furthermore, some professors didn't excuse students from class. Most of the kids I talked to were excused, and props to those professors. But it's unfortunate when a professor lets his or her ego get in the way, and won't let a student make up an assignment or exam because they went to Houston to support the school. Newsflash: This ever-lasting Big Dance will be remembered forever. A 50-minute class won't. It was refreshing to hear of many understanding professors who took a memo from this extraordinary team and acted selflessly.
I hope everyone on campus knows how truly special this is. Speaking with UConn alums, the first question I always ask isn't what subject they earned their degree in, but rather if they saw a national championship. Forget what Nike says about a certain NBA player who can't win a single championship. We are the real witnesses. We can take this one with us forever. And I don't mean to keep saying we. I don't believe I logged a single minute this season. But this is our championship. The players will be the first ones to tell you that this is for all of us. And I thank them for that.
My 2011 national championship hat will be hung on my wall in the place where my 2012 graduation mortarboard and tassel was supposed to go.
Sure, CBS thought our fans were embarrassing, but who cares?
No embarrassment, only pride, can come from what Calhoun, the players and we as a campus accomplished the last 27 days.
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