Hey Kalamazoo; You're Missing Out

The Western Michigan basketball team is on a roll; 25 straight home wins, 6-0 in the MAC, RPI ranking of 24 (out of 330), the top scoring duo in the MAC (Ben Reed and Levi Rost) and they play in a great atmosphere in University Arena. So Bronco basketball should be the toughest ticket in town, right? Anyone?

The sad truth is that the Broncos won their 25th straight home game in front of a modest 3,648 fans in an arena that seats over 5,400. And many of those fans left early with the game still undecided… to do what? Beat the traffic? What traffic?

So why aren't the fans making it to the games? They sure are missing out.

"If you're a sports fan, you like good competition and good atmosphere; even if you're a college basketball fan with ties to another school but happen to live in the area… you're going to see a team that plays fundamentally well, you're going to see the fans, you're going to see the atmosphere, you're going to hear the pep band getting loud," said WMU Sports Marketing Director Jeff Rank. "You're going to see good basketball out there."

Besides the great entertainment value pointed out by Rank there is not much better then being able to take ownership in something great.

How great is it to be able to say the defending MAC champions who are poised for their third straight 20 win season and third post-season tournament in a row are your hometown team. Wouldn't it be ever better to be able to say, "I was there, I saw my championship team in person."

So I ask again. Why aren't the fans making it to see one of the top Division 1 teams in the nation?

I'm not just talking about this past Wednesday's game either. It's understandable for a weekday game to be a little less well attended compared to a weekend game but WMU is averaging about 3,500 on the season, not just on weekdays.

I've heard the reasons and perceptions to not come out to the games too. There are plenty of reasons out there and most of them simply are not true.

Take this example… "WMU charges too much for parking." Actually parking is absolutely free for all WMU sporting events except football. And there is plenty of parking available such as the parking ramp a mere two minute walk through the warm Student Rec. Center from the arena or the Waldo Stadium press box parking with FREE shuttle bus service to the arena.

Now the athletic department does recognize that parking isn't perfect for basketball games and they are looking at possible solutions for the future, but let's face facts; the parking at WMU is no worse off then most other schools in the region and is much better then a lot of the schools that do charge a fee to park.

I've also heard… "Robin Hook said that Kalamazoo hates the Broncos." Jeff Ranks response to that is that "you won't find a stronger and better Bronco fan then Robin Hook. He loves the city of Kalamazoo. He's not going to go on air and say that." Besides, radio broadcasters for other schools say some pretty terrible things sometimes and many of those schools sellout anyway. I'm not buying that Robin ever said such a thing, but even if he did that's a poor excuse to not go to the games.

"The band is too loud." Have you ever been to a college basketball game anywhere, ever? An exciting pep band is part of the atmosphere in college athletics and should be something to be proud of, not complained about. If you don't like the loud music that badly the ticket office of more then happy to assign you a seat away from the band when you buy your tickets.

How about this perception… "WMU and the MAC are fine, but they're just not the (insert big money conference or team here)." And thank goodness for that. I'd hate to be on the losing end of WMU's 4-2 record against the University of Michigan over the past seven seasons. Or how about WMU's wins over USC and Arizona State last season, not to mention the exciting overtime win over College of Charleston on ESPN2 at home last winter. And besides, how many teams – big money or otherwise – can claim to be on the verge of a third straight 20-win season like the Broncos? Some can, but not many.

My personal favorite reason is "the weather." I admit we have some rough weather here in west Michigan, but that weather is nothing new. There are areas with far worse weather, basketball teams not as good as WMU's and they seem to have no trouble selling far more tickets then the 5,421 it takes to sell-out at WMU.

As of 11:00am Friday about 4,200 tickets have been sold for tomorrow's game with Ball State. Come out to the game, see what you've been missing, cheer for your hometown team and help sell-out the game. I promise you won't be disappointed.

I may be preaching to the choir here on Broncos Illustrated but now that you have no excuse to miss another Bronco basketball game and the rest of the season should be at or near a sell-out, right? Anyone?

Jeff Rank added, "there's a championship basketball team right here in Kalamazoo. People have wanted a winner for years, and we've got one."

This has been an opinion column by Scott Mohler. Opinions expressed are solely his and of those people directly quoted.

Tickets for this Saturday's match-up with Ball State are $13 and on sale now. This is also your last chance to get in on the Pick-Six Plan for 6 games at just $60. Tickets are available at the Waldo Stadium ticket office during regular business hours, at 1-888-4-WMU-TIX, at wmubroncos.com and at the door beginning two-hours before tip-off. Game time is 2pm and for those Bronco fans on the east side of Michigan Comcast Local Sports has picked up the BSU TV broadcast for the Detroit, Ann Arbor and Flint markets.

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