Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Wash. U. student-athletes deserve more support

Hundreds of students crammed into common rooms and local bars to watch the Seattle Seahawks demolish the Denver Broncos Sunday night in the Super Bowl. But while there was no shortage of sports fans on the Christmas of American sports, Washington University athletics lacks such support. Coming on the heels of a weekend on which sellout crowds at the Lunar New Year Festival were wowed by a celebration of color and tradition, student-athletes have to be asking themselves what it would take to get similar enthusiasm from their fellow students.

The largest crowd at a home sporting event in the last two years came on Aug. 31, 2012 at the season-opening football game, which saw 2,052 strong watch the Bears take on the top-ranked and defending national champion University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. But just two weeks later, fewer than half that number made the trek to Francis Field, a much more representative marker of typical turnout for a football game, and even that number would be massive for other varsity teams. Why the drastic decrease in support?

It can’t be the historical record of Wash. U’s teams. Since athletic director John Schael took over 36 years ago, sparking the rise of the school’s athletic department, the Bears have won 19 national championships, 162 conference championships and 70.4 percent of their overall games. Six teams (men’s and women’s basketball, men’s soccer, softball, women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball) have gone more than two decades without a losing season. In the past 15 years, varsity teams have had just one losing season total.

It can’t be the current state of Wash. U. athletics. This season saw the football team earn a postseason berth for the second time in program history, the women’s soccer team reached the national quarterfinals while being ranked in the top two for most of the year and the volleyball team make the national tournament for the 27th straight season. The men’s and women’s basketball teams each lead their conference and have won 24 straight games combined. Of six winter teams, five are ranked nationally, four in the top 10.

It can’t be that athletes are just in another world, like at most NCAA Division I schools. Our athletics programs are in Division III, which means the student-athletes do not receive scholarships for their talents. This also means that Wash. U. athletes are applying to medical schools, graduate programs and jobs like the rest of their classmates. Through this year’s fall seasons, 137 alumni have been named Academic All-Americans, whose awarding requires a GPA of at least 3.30 and excellence on and off the playing field. The student-athletes at Wash. U. are just that: students before athletes.

So leave your dorm rooms and the library for all of two hours and check out the basketball teams in the Field House on Friday evening or Sunday afternoon. Follow @studlifesports or @WUSTLBears for results on the swimming-and-diving teams at the UAA Championships in two weeks or the track-and-field teams as they continue winning indoor meets. By the end of the month, the spring athletics season will be in full swing. Get out and support your classmates, floormates and friends as they represent your school.

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878