Support came up short

by Antonio Morales

Peter Kluch, Senior Staff Photographer
Peter Kluch, Senior Staff Photographer

I was born and raised in San Diego; I’ve seen the crowds for Padres and Chargers games when those teams were both good and bad.

Growing up, I always heard the phrase, “San Diego loves a winner” when people talked about how crowds would all of a sudden increase as soon as a team started winning.

The San Diego State men’s basketball team is a winner. Six straight 20-win seasons, three NCAA tournament appearances in those six years, three NIT appearances in the three years they didn’t make the NCAA tournament and, of course, the Sweet-16 trip a year ago.

There were numerous sellouts last season during that magical run, when people described the atmosphere at Viejas Arena as one of the best in the country.

The number of tickets sold for the Basketball Travelers Classic was solid: 11,734, 11,765 and 11,792 for the three games respectively.

Those numbers mask the fact that the fan turnout for the three games this weekend was rather weak.

If those in attendance were counted, the number would probably be between 6,000 to 7,000 people.

The Aztecs raised Sweet-16, Mountain West Conference championship and MW tournament championship banners and honored head coach Steve Fisher and former All-American Kawhi Leonard in front of an arena that was half empty.

Watching highlights on YouTube of junior guard Jamaal Franklin’s personal slam dunk contest against Southern Utah in front of 6,000 people isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing thing to the human eye.

Junior guard Chase Tapley was asked if he was bothered by the crowd, or lack thereof, after Saturday’s 70-37 win.

“It doesn’t bother us that much, like coach Fisher said, ‘The only thing we can worry about is San Diego State,’” Tapley said. “If we keep doing our part, then (the fans) will come and support.”

The thing is, the men’s basketball program has done its part. Its been doing its part for the last six years.

Maybe the sellouts and the big crowds were just a last-season thing.

I know this current edition of SDSU looks vastly different from the last one but its no excuse for the lack of fan support during the weekend.

Franklin alone is worth the price of admission. He scored 20 points in the first half against UC Davis and it looked like he was a threat to score 40 points. Combine this with his leaping ability and there’s reason for more than 6,000 fans to show up to the arena.

This team gives 100 percent in every game; its short on numbers but not short on effort. There’s still talent on the team.

Yes, I saw the line for student tickets yesterday for the games against USC and Long Beach State this week. The crowd support was never going to be lacking for those games.

I just hope the student-ticket line and crowd support is just as big for a Monday game next month against UC Riverside or a conference game against a lesser team in January or February.

—Antonio Morales is a journalism senior