I hear stories about how great college basketball can be.
My brother still talks about the Kentucky game two years ago. He arrived at the 7:15 p.m. game at 5 a.m. in 18 degree weather, and said it was worth it.
My mom, a Duke alumna, tells me about the three times she camped out before games against North Carolina. She’d get there at 9 p.m. on the night before the game, and she wasn’t even close to touching the front row.
But, for me, it’s not the same experience. I got to Texas basketball’s season opener Friday five minutes before tip-off, just in time to snag a free T-shirt and third row seats.
And for last year’s biggest game?
“How early did you get to the game to get those seats?” my high school basketball coach, a former Kansas forward, texted me after seeing me in the front row on TV. “In Lawrence, you would have to get there the night before for front row.”
About an hour and a half.
I get it, we are a football school.
But still, why can’t we have a group of die-hard basketball fans?
Our basketball-game attendance is embarrassing. The fans are embarrassing. Only a handful actually wear burnt orange. Only a handful actually pay attention to what’s going on.
The girl in front of me was texting as sophomore forward Connor Lammert sealed the game with a block.
I started jumping up and down, joking about winning the Big 12 crown and going crazy like any college student should do at a college game.
But around me everyone was clapping — not the excited, thrilling victory clap, but the end of a play clap. The “congratulations on winning” clap.
This isn’t an orchestra. This is Texas basketball — it should be the second most exciting sport on campus.
Even worse than the fans’ actions was the fact these are the only fans.
The official attendance for the Texas game was just over 8,108. Only about 4,000 walked through the turnstiles. Of those, maybe a hundred were students. There were probably more students at Gregory playing basketball themselves than watching the opener.
Compare that to other Big 12 schools’ season openers. Iowa State had nearly twice as many. Almost 4,000 more Kansas State fans watched their team suffer an embarrassing loss to Northern Colorado. Even West Virginia got a bigger crowd.
And let’s not even compare this to Kansas.
The only Big 12 team to draw less fans in its season opener was Texas Tech.
It’s embarrassing. Going to the game isn’t as fun as it should be.
I know, our only top recruit struggles to hit the rim on free throws while our best player is a freshman three-star recruit who had to move to Texas to gain any interest.
But can’t the fans get a little excited? Can’t they have fun? Can’t they support the team a little? Texas can’t expect to get any big-time recruits until this basketball culture — or lack there of — starts to change.