We are Friar Faithful

It's about 2 in the morning – in less than 12 hours the tip off between the Georgetown Hoya's and my Friars will take place down in Washington D.C. I'll be sitting in McPhails with a collection of Friar Faithful members, each one of us focused solely on each play, applauding all that's done right and examining each fault with a critical eye. At least, that's the ideal – part of me is nervous.

What if people don't show up tomorrow to watch the game, what will that mean for the program? What if the turnout is incredible but the Georgetown game is an absolute flop – will people still be interested in going on an excursion to see us take on our rivals next Sunday? Most of all – even if we do win tomorrow will that be enough of a shock to the program to get the home games sold out again?

Forming The Faithful
Friar Faithful – and a lot of people don't know this – was actually started back when I was a sophomore at PC in the fall of 2008. I was a transfer student from Merrimack College looking to get involved when I got an informal email inviting me to McPhails about starting a student athletic support group, divided into two groups. The basketball group would be called Purgatory Pit, while the soccer group would be the Huxley Hellraisers. Special guests B-Mac and Weyinmi Efejuku were in attendance, encouraging everyone there (about two dozen of us at best) to get as involved as possible. I went to put my email down, and the organizer of the meeting (the original White Suit man, James) looked at me and said "hey man, would you be interested in painting your face for Saturday's game against URI?"

Whatever we did from the URI game forward must've gotten some good attention because over winter break a collective group of us received an email from our future advisor saying that Keno Davis wanted to meet with us to discuss ideas about student involvement and increasing attendance at the games.

This was the equivalent of a godsend at the time, and excited the hell out of all of us because it meant we were about to get some real support. From there Friar Faithful caught on like the flu because kids were getting more and more involved with each game, all building up to a great unification of the students to help assist in the defeat of the number 1 ranked Pittsburgh – and unlike certain sportswriters who "are quick to forget" that amazing victory, I'll never forget watching those final seconds tick off the clock, taking a step further and further onto the court as each one dripped away into the record books all before being the first person to stamped on the court. This is for real, I remember thinking in the middle of the mob that took over the court, this is what it's all about. When people talk about those memories that will stay with you forever, they were talking about this moment. We were a part of that, we helped create that – not only the court storm, but the entire atmosphere of the student section that night.

Fast forward to present day. We're a fully recognized and the fastest growing club on campus, we get involved in all sports as well as community service (last year it was a 3 v. 3 basketball tournament to raise money for Haiti Relief), and we've increased attendance at all sports, even being able to provide new opportunities we wouldn't have had two years ago (example: we not only travelled down to New Jersey for the Big East soccer semi's, but we went back that Sunday to see the championship game against Louisville). And yet, despite this success we all sit down once a week and talk about the area we feel we lack in the most – getting students downtown the Dunkin Donuts Center during basketball season.

Tireless Work
Before most people even look at the schedule in the fall or think about whether or not to buy season tickets, Friar Faithful is already trying to figure out the best ways to get people to games and to make sure students are having fun at the games. This starts in (if I remember correctly) July, when the OOC is starting to leak and we hear about what Big East games will be home, and which ones will be away. This affects us in a lot of ways, not only based on who comes to play us, but which games we can make it to that are away.

Games like Boston College and UCONN are staples for travelling because of their close proximity and natural rivalry, but this year we tried something new by organizing an overnight trip to see the Georgetown game. Ultimately it didn't work out, but the buzz built around it is encouraging enough to at least not rule it out for the future. As for the OOC games, not only who we play but when we play them is of crucial importance.

For us, each game is looked at a few different angles. We always consider:
1. Who is our opponent?
2. When are we playing them?
3. What are we competing against to get students in attendance?
4. Why would a student want to see this game in particular?

For a game like, say, PVAMU, the challenge is pretty much written on the wall. Nobody has ever even heard of this school before, it's a weekday game that looms right around a period where everyone has papers due, and students generally don't know what the significance of a team like this is. Our job is to raise that awareness to the best of our ability, and make it appealing to go – not an easy task when a student generally will make up his or her mind on going within the first five seconds of talking to them. And, more often than not, unless the words "Big East," "ranked," or "rival" isn't said in those first five seconds you're fighting an uphill battle.

The reason for this though isn't just because students have finals due, or it's a weekday, or they're studying, or they don't want to buy tickets, or anything of that sort – it's that there's a general sense of apathy towards a team coming off a rough past season and an even rougher off season. Part of it is "mob mentality" – they read so much negative things in the media that they buy into what's being said, but the other part is that people aren't interested in teams that lose or teams that win against easy opponents. This was the problem we face with men's ice hockey, and now is the same problem with men's basketball. Of course, on the flipside it's not that students come out just to see number 7 Villanova or number 15 Louisville – it's because they want to see us beat someone of significance. Those wins re-establish our program, and helps boost interest.

Since we can't wait for February to roll around each season, and we have no control over our opponents in the OOC, we have to find ways to make other games appealing. A good example of this was the Dartmouth game. Hey, we're playing a bad team but you have the appeal that it's the season opener, this is a new team with a lot of young and promising talent, and for many students it will be their first time seeing a real game at the Dunkin Donuts Center. This worked out pretty well, but unfortunately trying to promote games like Yale or Brown is difficult because there's not as big of a sell point.

More often than not when we go to return the cash box we see a line wrapping around the corner of students we saw who wanted a ticket but needed to get money. This also serves as a good way to find out the buzz about games – what are students feeling, why are they feeling that way, and how we can respond to it.

This insight helps us plan for the future and ultimately yields returning success, but it's very limited because things change so drastically and quickly that we as a group need to be flexible enough to respond to the changes as they come. We can never, ever count on something being an absolute certain, and thus we react to it accordingly. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but most importantly we never stop looking around and trying to figure out what to do to respond. It's a push and every game is like facing a new element, but we've been fortunate in the support we've gotten from our exec board members and the athletic department.

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