Over this past weekend, likely thousands of students around campus applied for the basketball lottery in the hopes of winning the chance to purchase season tickets for the men’s and women’s games. Basketball is an essential part of this university’s identity, and our programs have brought countless incredible experiences to the student body over the years. Frankly, though, scheduling in recent years has spit in the face of students who love the program.
Last year, the biggest home game of the year for the women’s team was against Notre Dame. In what will be remembered as a classic, UConn stormed back from a large deficit in the fourth quarter to win in front of a thunderous crowd. Not too many students were there to see that, though, because the game was 30 minutes away at the XL Center.
This year, the biggest home game is against South Carolina, a team that ranked sixth in the nation at the end of last season. Yet again, that game will be at the XL Center. The reason for this is fairly obvious. The XL Center has a capacity of 16,294, more than 50 percent greater than Gampel’s 9,882 person capacity. The South Carolina game will sell out, or very nearly so, and that will mean more money for a university that definitely needs it. It’s a good justification for having the game in Hartford.
However, this means that many fewer students will get to witness the game. Even the most diehard fans will be hard-pressed to spend a half-hour driving up there, watching the game, and then getting stuck in traffic and taking an hour or more to get back to campus. Additionally, it’s on a Monday night, making it even more difficult for students to work around their schedule and make the trip. We don’t deserve that. We deserve the best games to be played on campus so that we can support our team. And our team deserves to play on campus in front of the best crowd we can muster.
Games at Gampel can be magical. The atmosphere is like nothing else, especially when two juggernauts clash. Just go watch a video of the 1995 game against Tennessee if you’re not convinced. In our mediocre basketball conference, we seldom get to see that more than one or two games per year. When a strong opponent does come UConn’s way, the university owes it to the students and to the team to schedule it at Gampel. XL may be bigger, but it’s certainly not better.