When it comes to volleyball in the Mountain West Conference, three teams seem to matter for the conference championship race: Utah, Brigham Young and CSU.
But when it comes to fan and student rowdiness, CSU ranks with the Air Forces and Wyomings of the Mountain West world. This was evident at CSU’s two volleyball games over the weekend against the Utes and Cougars.
While CSU rakes in a similar number of fans to games, the involvement of the students could not be further apart.
One major difference between the two Utah schools and CSU is that Utah schools have courts specially designed for volleyball as opposed to the cavernous basketball arenas CSU plays in. Smaller arenas make crowds more intimate and keep the stands rocking throughout the games.
Seeing BYU pack more than 2,000 people into Smith Fieldhouse on a Saturday night made me envious of our conference rivals. On Saturday nights at CSU, watching a volleyball game ranks somewhere between clipping toe nails and studying.
Some may argue there is little else to do in Provo, Utah, on a Saturday night. While this a valid argument, seeing two full student sections at a volleyball game is impressive no matter where it takes place.
While Utah had only 800 fans at its game, the majority of those were students. The fans were entertained not only by their team’s sweep of CSU, but also by cheerleaders and a 29-piece marching band.
Even the Utah men’s basketball team was in the stands cheering hard for the Utes. When was the last time CSU’s basketball or football teams traveled as a team to attend a volleyball game?
Patrons of Rams volleyball will argue more people go to Moby Arena than can fit in Utah’s Cushman Court. While this is true, the crowd is mostly members of the community or CSU alumni – not students.
The difference between the teams from the Beehive State and CSU volleyball home games is the atmosphere. During volleyball games at Moby, the audience is similar to that of an opera. At Utah and BYU, it is reminiscent of a rock concert.
Whenever CSU travels to BYU, Head Coach Tom Hilbert admires and envies the rowdy student section at the Fieldhouse. Hilbert also thinks his team plays better in a raucous environment.
“This is an exciting atmosphere,” Hilbert said following CSU’s nail-biting loss to the Cougars. “Its always fun to come play out here, and we generally play well here.”
Like most sporting events at CSU, students attending volleyball games generally show up late and only go to major matches when enticed by the lure of free food or T-shirts. At the other conference powerhouses, students go simply to watch quality and entertaining volleyball.
Will the lack of caring by the student body for CSU’S best team continue? Most likely it will.
After 11 straight trips to the postseason, you would think students would start to show up to see athletes like Mekana Barnes and Tonya Mokelki, but apparently students are too busy arguing about Fum’s Song or the new Facebook.
It was a sad day for me this weekend when I realized I was jealous of the students at BYU and Utah. Fum McGraw just rolled over in his grave.
Sports editor Mike Donovan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.