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Zips fan questions seating arrangement

4/1/2010 - South Side Leader
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By Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

On March 5, I took part in The University of Akron Men’s Basketball team’s game against Kent State University. Needless to say, the Zips did not perform well and lost the regular season MAC East Division title to the Golden Flashes. However, I was utterly amazed at the sea of white that flowed around the court at the James A. Rhodes Arena, interrupted only by a section of yellow clad Kent students. But to this casual observer, there was something wrong with this scene.

As the Zips started to lose control of the game and their fans became quiet, a man jumped up from his seat and started running in front of our section trying to lead cheers to get the fans back into the game and give the Zips their home court advantage back. While this man’s comical attempts to get everyone to cheer were laughed at, a startling thought ran through my head. I was thinking, “What’s the point this far back from the court?”

I looked at those sitting down close around the court and noticed families with young children, men in ties, and others just chatting, uninterested in the game. In fact, the AK-Rowdies were the only students courtside, stuck behind one of the hoops. I mentioned this to my father and he said to me, “Now when I went to school here [in the 1970s] and they played at Memorial Hall they put out a few rows of folding chairs in front of the bleachers for the students to sit in on the sidelines. It got so loud down there that when some guy from the other team was taking the ball out of bounds we would be right up in his ear yelling at him. Guys were afraid to come play here because they’d get harassed by our students. But now most of the students are jammed up in a corner away from the floor. Whoever designed this place didn’t have the students in mind when they put all the bigwig ticket holders down on the floor; just the money. They’re afraid to yell because they don’t want to get kicked out. A student’s not afraid of that.”

It’s a sad reality that this is the state of athletics now. Money controls everything. A few years ago the Zips had a record-winning streak at the arena. They were unbeatable on their home floor. But against Kent, the Flashes owned the court and their miniscule section of fans were clearly heard because the only Zips fans left cheering were the AK-Rowdies. The vast majority of Akron students in the building were cut off from the lone group of Zips supporters left making noise. The University of Akron essentially cut the head off of the snake that is their student support system by separating the AK-Rowdies from the rest of the students. If the students surrounded the floor, the Rowdies could have infectiously gotten them to keep cheering their Zips on. But, instead of a loud home court advantage, the Zips basketball players were left with a quiet, disinterested crowd of suit-wearing boosters.

Dylan Papp, Green

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