As Alabama’s last shot attempt clanked off the rim and the final seconds melted off the clock, the fans that were there went wild in Colonial Life Arena, celebrating their team’s first conference win of the season.
Now, rewind the clock back 10 minutes. Half of the students that had packed their corner of the arena had exited the building. Alabama was slowly chipping away at a lead that had once been fifteen points and the men’s basketball team needed its fans more than ever.
Where were the students?
They probably didn’t care enough to stay. They have no loyalty to the team, to the school, or to their fellow students who are working so hard on the court. They’d probably rather be in five points.
These are the kinds of conclusions that Gamecock fans so readily spout out at the sight of students leaving a game early. Although it is understood that this is a problem, it is not solely a student problem. It is a problem that permeates the entire South Carolina fan base and the students have been used as a convenient scapegoat for far too long.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s home game against Alabama the student section was packed. The students had filled their respective seats for a 9 o’clock game to watch a team that looked like it may have been on its way to another losing SEC season. And that loyalty stopped with the students. There was a sea of garnet beyond the student section… A sea of garnet empty chairs. There were entire rows of empty seats and the upper deck may as well not even exist because those “loyal fans” that constantly look down upon the student body are never loyal enough to fill them.
And it isn’t just basketball.
There was not a soul, anywhere in the stadium, for the home football games against South Alabama and Furman. Fans of all ages skipped out on the game, yet the only fans that continually get pounded for lack of loyalty are the students.
These other, and far more superior, Gamecock “fans” are the same ones that actually have the money to travel to a bowl game. ESPN panned out to the crowd only once because of how dismal the fan turnout was.
Yes, the students should be the most energized part of the fan base. And the sad part about our fan base, is that it is. No one in Williams-Brice stands the entire game except the student section. No one starts the wave, jumps up and down to Sandstorm as an entire body, ignites chants, or yells on every opponent’s offensive possessions. And when the students leave early, the energy goes out of the crowd. Maybe that’s why they are the scapegoat. When they’re gone, the crowd presence at South Carolina athletic events is abysmal.
There remains to be seen a crowd in college athletics that sits down with their arms crossed more than South Carolina fans. So maybe, students leaving early is just a manifestation of an overwhelming problem in an entire fan base. Maybe, all Gamecock fans should look introspectively and wonder if they’ve done everything in their power to vitalize this fan base. If a fan can honestly say they have, then they can place judgment on the student section.
Otherwise, keep your mouth shut and just watch the game. It’s what South Carolina fans are good at.