As UCSB students, we are undoubtedly some of the most well rounded young people in the country. We study hard, we party hard and – let’s face it – this has got to be one of the better-looking student bodies in America. However, we have yet to thoroughly embrace one of America’s favorite pastimes: college sports.
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, when this year’s freshman class was wetting its pants for reasons that have nothing to do with water balloons, the Thunderdome was one of the toughest places to play in the entire country. Santa Barbara became nationally known as a place where opposing teams battled not only the Gauchos on the floor, but also the Locos in the stands.
Legendary UNLV) Head Basketball Coach Jerry Tarkanian viewed the Thunderdome as the toughest place to play in America, and he would know better than anyone. Between 1990 and 1991, Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebels had a stretch in which they won 61 of 62 games, including the 1990 National Championship. The one loss was to the Gauchos, in a nationally televised game at the Thunderdome.
These days, the Gauchos rarely host home games against teams like Tarkanian’s UNLV squad, but that does not mean that they couldn’t use the same home court advantage that existed over a decade ago. In fact they might need it now more than ever. To put it bluntly, the Big West does not get the individual talent that other top conferences receive. Big West athletes are not used to playing in front of huge crowds or playing on television. Imagine how they would react if they were to walk onto the Thunderdome floor and see 6,000 rabid fans screaming at them. The Gauchos would have the upper hand before they even left the locker room.
If you still have your doubts, go to Harder Stadium and check out the crowd at soccer games. Can you imagine that crowd with a roof over its head? The result would be deafening. When the Gauchos played UCLA, a Harder Stadium regular season record 5,475 fans attended the game and, despite the loss, the team walked toward the bleachers and gave its fans a round of applause. That tells you all you need to know about what the fans mean to the UCSB teams. Two years ago, over 11,000 fans saw the UCSB men’s soccer team defeat Virginia Commonwealth 4-1 to reach the NCAA National Semifinals. If only half of those fans would show up to basketball games, the Gauchos would have a home court advantage second to none.
With the MLB playoffs wrapping up, it is time to embrace the guys who are not paid for playing a game. It is time to embrace the Gauchos. Our athletes play too hard to just have bandwagon fans. The Gauchos should have our support year round, not just on those rare occasions when one of our teams makes the NCAA tournament or when ESPN decides to televise a game.
If we do rebuild our fan traditions and bring back the days of thunder, big schools will once again come to test themselves at the Thunderdome, and ESPN will return to Santa Barbara to chronicle those games. Just remember, if we build it – they will come.
Daily Nexus Staff Writer Alex Pavlovic briefly considered attending UNLV until he found out that drunken Vegas debauchery is not in fact a major.