By: Tim Van Duyne
There’s a stigma amongst students at Illinois State University that Redbird athletics isn’t to be taken seriously. That ISU can’t compete with big-time college power houses.
I agree that right now they’re not ready to compete with the Duke’s, Michigan State’s, Wichita State’s, but they’re heading in the right direction.
Last Wednesday, ISU hosted the No. 5 team in the nation, and Missouri Valley Conference foe, Wichita State. When the Shockers came into Redbird Arena, they entered as the highest-ranked team to ever lace ’em up on Doug Collins Court. Redbird Athletics declared the game a “Redout,” and the students and Bloomington-Normal community got the message.
When I walked into the arena an hour and 15 minutes before the game, the student section was completely full of anxious Redbird fans. It was a great sight to see, and it really added to the atmosphere of the already historic night a Redbird Arena. The final attendance numbers for the game were 9, 510 (the largest crowd since Jan. 10, 2010 against Bradley).
Why can’t ISU students do this for every game?
Despite the large attendance, there were still open seats. Even with the No. 5 team in the nation playing at your house, ISU still couldn’t sellout Redbird! That’s a problem. It’s actually kind of embarrassing.
In 2005, when the Fighting Illini were starting their magical run, fans camped outside Assembly Hall for two days to get tickets to see their team get a crack at Chris Paul’s No. 1 Demon Deacons. Yes, they’re a Big Ten school. Yes, they are the state school in Illinois. But, it’s not crazy to think ISU can someday compete with the Illini.
Illinois State has some of the best facilities in the MVC, to go along with the best staff. ISU just spent $20 million to upgrade Hancock Stadium, and now it is one of the best in the MVFC. Duffy Bass Field just gave its infield a makeover by installing field turf. The 2013 baseball team won the MVC Title and also hosted the MVC Tournament. The locker rooms inside Redbird Arena recently were upgraded with plenty of amenities for the players.
ISU is doing all they can to change the sports culture on campus. The last piece of the puzzle is to change the mindset of the students.
In my three years at ISU, Redbird Nation has gotten better each year, but it’s still not good enough yet.
ISU men’s basketball and football are two of the youngest teams in the Valley. They may not be ready to compete this year, but give them a year or two and they could be on top of the conference.
Redbird Nation what are you waiting for? Join the bandwagon and back your ‘birds. They deserve it. Because if you don’t, ISU may never reach the same level as the Wichita State’s, Creighton’s or North Dakota State’s.