During the Utah State athletic department's campaign to make a significant raise to student fees a couple years ago, I kept hearing the phrase, "Athletics are the front porch to the university," over and over again. Basically, this catchphrase indicates that significant national notoriety comes to USU via sports rather than academia. I suppose to a certain extent I agree with the statement. I didn't actively vote for the fee increase, but I supported it, realizing the financial struggle mid-major universities face.
If I were to embrace the "front porch" allegory, I suppose I should devise a metaphor representing The Spectrum student section. The closest I can muster would be that crazy guy standing on the side of the road on a blazing hot day, wearing an outrageous costume and waving a giant arrow - all for minimum wage. An attention-deriving workhorse.
When USU administration decided to apparently crack down on student behavior during basketball games, it felt like they wanted to take away the sign and costume, and relegate the crazy guy to simply stand, smile and wave on the side of the road, hardly enticing anyone on to the "front porch."
The now famous "sit-out" last week by students in The Spectrum was enough to send administration in to a PR spin-mode. They chalked the event up as a complete misunderstanding, a miscommunication of sorts, fueled by the overzealousness of a single rogue usher. The "new rules" for behavior were not ever sanctioned, and basically, "Can everything go back to normal?"
While I'm smart enough to know how these things really work, I along with many others were eager for the situation to blow over and move on. A formal meeting was set between student leaders and administration where everyone agreed to play nice, and no hard feelings resulted.
An invitation was extended to Utah State President Stan Albrecht to join the student section on the front row behind the basket during the next game against Utah Valley University. He accepted, and spent the first half in the stands last night, enveloped by the craziest of the student fans.
While the young and injury-ridden Aggies have been struggling this season to find an identity, they played with more passion and desire last night than I have seen since the home opener against BYU. The new guys stepped up and fought hard the whole game, much to the delight of the crowd.
Utah Valley has had an up-and-down season so far, and also struggles with consistency. Although Isiah Williams and Kevin Woods had a good shooting night, UVU never could get a good rhythm for long enough to be a winning threat in the game. However, they kept the game close and went on mini runs several times, especially in the second half.
A halftime recognition was a time for Aggie fans to celebrate additional athletics supremacy. Likely unknown to sports fans around the nation who think USU is synonymous with basketball, the Aggie cross-country and track and field teams are the most dominant of all USU sports. Last night the cross-country team came on to the court to present the trophy for winning another Western Athletic Conference title. The men's team has won six of the last seven championships, and their coach, Gregg Gensel, was named the WAC cross-country coach of the year for the sixth time in the last seven years. The women's team has also shared in success by winning WAC titles, but came in third this year.
The indoor and outdoor track and field teams have been just as dominant, and I anticipate another recognition in the Spectrum later in the season, as the men's indoor squad looks to get their fourth WAC title in five years. The women also look to finally overtake Louisiana Tech who has won five straight WAC titles.
Back to basketball...
UVU fought hard and never gave up, closing the point gap several times in the second half to keep the game interesting while USU went through scoring droughts. However, newcomer and sophomore Danny Berger had an incredible game, scoring 10 timely points to help USU finish strong and win. As a new guy, Berger was supposed to redshirt this year, but with the inconsistency in small forward production, he was asked to step up and play.
Even though official news came today that senior forward Brady Jardine will be out for the year, after tonight's game, USU fans have a little more to cheer about. Maybe some of them can even back away from the cliff's edge. While that "front porch" may have some crooked steps with cracks in them this year, the crazy sign guy is back, and USU will find a way to be successful. In Stew We Trust.
at UTAH STATE 63, UTAH VALLEY 54 12/06/2011
UTAH VALLEY 4-5 (0-0) -- B. Aird 4-12 0-1 8; G. Robinson 3-6 1-5 7; I. Williams 5-15 2-2 16; A. Hubbard 3-6 2-2 8; K. Woods 5-6 0-0 10; H. Hunsaker 1-5 0-0 3; K. Thompson 1-4 0-0 2; K. Enos 0-1 0-0 0; R. Fannon 0-0 0-0 0; Z. Jones 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-56 5-10 54. UTAH STATE 4-4 (0-0) -- P. Medlin 4-7 3-4 13; M. Grim 2-7 3-4 7; B. Pane 3-11 3-4 9; K. Reed 5-7 1-2 11; M. Bruneel 2-4 0-0 5; D. Berger 4-6 0-0 10; J. Stone 0-3 2-6 2; A. Thoseby 3-3 0-0 6; B. Clifford 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 23-50 12-20 63.
Three-point goals: UVU 5-11 (B. Aird 0-1; H. Hunsaker 1-2; I. Williams 4-6; K. Enos 0-1; A. Hubbard 0-1), USU 5-11 (B. Pane 0-4; P. Medlin 2-3; D. Berger 2-2; M. Bruneel 1-2); Rebounds: UVU 28 (G. Robinson 9), USU 38 (M. Grim 8); Assists: UVU 8 (I. Williams 3), USU 16 (P. Medlin 6); Total Fouls -- UVU 17, USU 12; Fouled Out: UVU-None; USU-None.