October 15, 2012
Last Friday, I attended my first Hilltopper Hysteria. That might come as a surprise to some since I have worked in the sports department at WBKO for almost seven years. But alas, Friday was my first Hysteria experience. My initial reaction: this could be much bigger.
WKU's media relations department estimates about 3,500 fans attended Hilltopper Hysteria. Keep in mind, however, that is a very inexact science and is purely an estimation because the event was free. Let's assume, though, that 3,500 was the correct attendance number. Not bad, but not good either.
Let's consider the momentum WKU Basketball had at the end of the season. The home finale against Middle Tennessee was a sellout (7,326). So less than half of that number attended Hysteria, the first chance to see this year's group in action. Has WKU lost all of its momentum already? I don't think so. The issue lies with the event itself.
I really don't mind the format of Hysteria. It allows the volleyball team to get a little rub off of basketball, and a men's and women's scrimmage followed by a dunk competition and three-point contest is pretty standard. The event is advertised to run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. starting with the volleyball match. Hysteria ran at least 30 minutes long (I had to leave early due to Football Friday Night so I do not have an exact number) and it is my understanding that it runs long about every year. Part of that hinges on the length of the volleyball match, but even a 3-0 sweep is going to take a little time, which is what occurred on Friday. There is a portion of the WKU fan base that does not want to stay out until 9:30-10 o'clock at night.
Running behind schedule is secondary, though. I think Hilltopper Hysteria would benefit greatly if it was moved to a different day.
Who says you have to do your season-opening event the day teams can officially begin practice? Sure, it's tradition to do so, but is it worth upholding "tradition" when the arena is half empty?
Friday night is just a bad night for Hilltopper Hysteria: 1) It is competing with area high school football. Last week, four of the five Warren County teams were in town, including the Bowling Green-Warren Central game, which has landed on the same night as Hysteria in back to back years. 2) WKU students go home for the weekend. Period. The student section at Hysteria was less than stellar. And that's being very generous. It also did not help that because Homecoming is this weekend, students were going to take the opportunity to go home last weekend.
Here is my idea/suggestion: schedule Hilltopper Hysteria on the Monday or Tuesday night following the start of practice. You are not competing against high school football and students are on campus and more likely to show up. Get the Greek community involved with some form of competition.
In this format, not only will more students show up, but the atmosphere in the arena will jump by leaps and bounds.
And if that does not work, return it to Friday night. What have you lost?
Does it go against the grain? Absolutely. But it's not as if the status quo is working all that well.