UAA has a 1,000 students living on campus who can get into a game by just showing their WolfCard.
So why is it a sea of bald heads and gray hair when you look down at a UAA crowd?
Is it because we don’t think we’ll make a difference?
I think we could.
I recently made a trek to Fairbanks to cover the UAA men’s basketball match-up with host UAF. The trip was whirlwind and there is a speeding ticket still to be paid. UAF’s Brad Oleson put on a shooting show to the tune of 39 points and the Nanooks took home a 91-80 victory. Fairbanks head coach Frank Ostanik said the senior guard’s performance was the best ever in UAF’s home gym.
But, in my mind, Oleson might not have had the most impressive performance that night. For my money (and a $50 speeding ticket is) the Nanook fans put on an extraordinary performance.
The 1,341 UAF fans at the Patty, particularly the student section, were in rare form.
How would I know? I’m not ashamed to say I grew up in North Pole as a (gasp!) UAF fan. But I’ve covered the Seawolves for three years now. So I know the crowds in both towns.
UAF’s Patty Center is always full of Nanook fans when the Seawolves come to town.
But this time the Nanook fans were loud. And they had done their homework.
Signs were made and chants were started. They were painted and color-coordinated. The Fairbanks student section showed up early and tried to mess with our players.
They chanted “Our Brad’s Better” when Seawolf Brad Evans checked into the game. No offense to Evans but that isn’t much of a stretch since Oleson is a conference player of the year and preseason all-American.
The signs ranged from “Brian Hills: Worst Dad of the Year” to “Drake’s a Flake” to “What’s a Seawolf?”
But Hills is a father of two and a very good one as far as I can tell. Mark Drake is about as real as they come. And the Seawolf is a mythical sea creature, which according to legend brought good luck to anyone fortunate enough to view it.
But the point is their fans made an effort and our players noticed.
I can count on one hand the number of signs I’ve seen this season at the Sports Complex. They were usually rooting for an individual; most often an Alaskan on the visiting team.
When Dimond grad Joe Chirhart came home with Saint Martin’s in late January, his fans were more vocal than UAA’s. In front of a season-high crowd of1,224, the Anchorage native hung 21 points on UAA and stole a win for his Saints.
The Seawolf men bring in about 800 fans per home game. The problem is, by my guess, only a quarter are students.
UAF students have to pay $3 to attend a game and they still come out, which is sad because UAA students have already paid to go to the games with our athletics fee.
I know you’re going to say, “People in Fairbanks have nothing better to do than go to a basketball game.” But when it’s 40 below outside, I can think of one place I’d rather be: home.
And home is where UAA students seem to be on game nights.
The UAA men’s four home losses were all close. Their average deficit is 3.5 points. How many points is an active student section worth?
I’d say the presence of rowdy Seawolf fans is worth at least a few points. And with a few more points, their season would look a lot better right now.
Get in the head of an opposing player and he might take a couple bad shots or choke at the free throw line. Pump up a Seawolf and he might dunk on Brad Oleson.
Our teams face hostile crowds on the road, so let’s make it hard on the Nanooks when they come to town Feb. 26. I’d love to see a mass of green and gold waving signs and chanting “Overrated!” while our Seawolves take apart the Nanooks. Because in the end it doesn’t matter whose Brad is better, it matters whose team is better.