In the United States, college sports — specifically football and basketball — rank just behind the National Football League, that country’s true national pastime, on the nation-wide sports fandom pecking order.
Those sports collectively generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year for the schools, money used to run other sports programs, and, in many cases, the business faculty, education faculty, arts and literature faculty, etc. etc.
Here in Canada, college sports take a somewhat diminished profile, languishing behind junior hockey in cities and towns where that game remains king.
Still, though, there is a fair amount of interest amongst the student population, faculty and alumni.
In St. John’s, however, university sports sink to another level, which no doubt is a shame.
While the Memorial Sea-Hawks basketball teams draw nice crowds to the Field House — virtually all basketball people, with a smattering of the casual sports fans — the university’s other varsity teams are barely blips on the sporting radar in terms of community interest.
But it isn’t just fan support, or lack thereof. The varsity teams are run on a budget that could rival a travelling midget hockey team, and its administration within Memorial’s executive offices doesn’t exactly go above and beyond to promote the team.
For goodness sakes, the varsity teams are lucky to find choice practice time in the Field House which, technically, is run by The Works over at the Aquarena.
Imagine telling Rick Pitino his Cardinals can’t work out in Louisville’s home because the gym is rented out for student intramurals?
If Memorial varsity sports are to reach a new level, a concerted effort must be undertaken to generate new money, funds to be used for training, travel, marketing and promotion.
And, yes, help lure a scattered recruit — preferably tall ones.
It’s quite apparent that money will have to come from alumni, just as it flows into schools across the country, and certainly in the States.
So until a strategic plan is put in place to tap into the pocket books of well-heeled former students, the Sea-Hawks are destined to be little more than an afterthought in a market that loves its hockey, both the pro game and senior amateur brand.
Nobody asked me, but ...
Rob Lowe’s Youngblood was on TV the other night. Has there been a worse sports movie produced? ... See where Andrew Ryan of Paradise is back playing with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL after breaking an ankle in August. Imagine if Ryan could hit the lottery and find himself on Nathan MacKinnon’s line? … Where’s the outcry in the U.S. over the NBA lockout? … Despite what the Montreal Canadiens are reporting, the IceCaps have not been sold to P.E.I. interests. In a news release issued from the Canadiens and the Bell Centre this week, announcing an upcoming IceCaps-Hamilton Bulldogs AHL game in Montreal, the Canadiens said the Bulldogs and ‘P.E.I.’ IceCaps are scheduled to play Feb. 24 at the Bell Centre … So if you’re the Canadiens or Toronto Maple Leafs, teams with scads of cash, do you put together a package for Alexander Ovechkin, not that Washington is prepared to deal its face of the franchise who’s currently struggling? … See where the folks who run the C.B.N. CeeBee Stars are concerned with attendance which has dipped a bit. This new Newfoundland Senior Hockey League is tossing around plenty of greenbacks, and regardless of sponsorship deals n place, gets its money primarily from ticket sales. A drop in attendance has to be a grave concern …
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor.
He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Robin Short’s column is carried each week in Saturday’s Weekend Telegram, but one that had run some weeks ago inadvertently appeared in the Nov. 26 edition. This is Robin’s latest column.