Despite a poor conference record and an overall mediocre season, there is still a lot of fun to be had at Wells Fargo Arena when the Arizona State Sun Devils take the court.
When I was a student at ASU, I used to attend basketball games regularly. Not every game, mind you, but I was there on a consistent basis. Sometimes I had a few drinks beforehand, but that is neither here nor there. I was in the stands, cheering on my team.
During winter break, I criticized the students for not showing up in greater numbers. Well, it's not fair to them - they were back at home in Illinois or Wisconsin while ASU was playing teams like the California Golden Bears.
One thing that had always baffled me was how the Sun Devils can't seem to draw a sellout crowd, except for when the Arizona Wildcats come to town for the rivalry game. ASU has really upped its game when it comes to enhancing their fan experience, and the team needs as much support as it can get.
Last night, I attended the ASU home game against the USC Trojans. I didn't sit in the media section like I normally do. I went with a friend and sat in the ninth row, and decided to forget my professional writing obligations and just take it in as a fan, like I used to do. Boy, was I surprised.
The cheerleading/dance team has bolstered its size and increased the pep, providing a vocal, attractive group of college girls running around the stadium yelling loudly for the home team. There were three sponsors on hand last night, and they all played a large role in the in-game entertainment.
The student section was given glo-sticks and when the lights went down for the Sun Devils introduction, the whole side of the stadium was illuminated in neon green, yellow and red. It was pretty cool, and something I had never seen before.
Gas card giveaways happened on at least four different occasions; pizzas was handed out and dance competitions ensued at half court. The crowd entertainment was well done and the effort is there.
A new program, the Benchwarmers Program, has been put into effect to increase the crowd size in the lower bowl. A fan sitting in the upper bowl can register and get a wristband out in the concourse; once the media timeout at 16 minutes in the first half begins, those who registered for the program can move into empty seats closer to the court. By the end of the game, the lower bowl was mostly full.
ASU is trying very hard to engender some sort of home court advantage, and I can't blame them. It's a classic chicken or the egg conundrum - do the fans come first, or do the quality recruits? The team over at Wells Fargo Arena is hoping that both can happen at the same time.
Despite a loss, it was a closely contested game and I was thoroughly impressed by the overall feel of the arena. It might be baby steps, but ASU is slowly turning into a top flight program.
There is another home game scheduled for 1:30 PM Arizona time tomorrow against the UCLA Bruins. Do yourself a favor and give the team a chance - they truly appreciate your support.