The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Doubleheader: Searching for Spirit

The Spirit Rock points to larger University concerns about student support for athletics
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Over two weeks have passed since St. John’s unveiled its “Spirit Rock,” a symbol of the strength of the St. John’s community and the passion that students, student-athletes and fans display on and off the field.

Since the University revealed the Rock, Red Storm teams are 5-3 with one tie, a men’s soccer double overtime draw against Hofstra hours after the unveiling ceremony.

It remains to be seen if the red-painted boulder is indeed a good luck charm, but the last 15 days have already proven that the Rock has struck out on campus.

We may not be at the apex of the “Red Storm Renaissance” just yet, but almost all of our Division I teams are trending upward, including the fall programs; the men’s soccer team is in the midst of its first winning season since 2013, the women’s soccer team is fresh off a run to the conference semifinals, and the volleyball team has one of the most exciting teams in the Big East.

Even the softball team, normally a spring sport, won their opening two contests of the fall season at Red Storm Field, conveniently tucked away behind the dorm halls on campus.

Despite all of the good fortune that this fall has spawned, fan attendance remains a sore spot for the student body.

At a particular women’s soccer game last week, the student-section bleachers behind both goals were sparsely scored, leaving quite a number of giveaway bags and water bottles without a home just minutes before gametime.

Dating back to last winter, the women’s basketball team, who advanced to the Sweet 16 in the Women’s NIT, could barely fill one side of the stands at Carnesecca Arena.

It’s a dilemma rarely seen on the Division I level: successful sports teams have no support beyond the sidelines.

A large part of this conundrum lies in the demographics of the student population. According to the newest U.S. News and World Report “Best Colleges” ranking, 72 percent of St. John’s students live off campus.

It’s inherently more difficult for any team to draw spectators when it’s inconvenient to get to a game (see: New York Islanders).

Simply, the campus may not be conducive to school spirit anymore, to the ire of the Sprit Rock and University administration.

St. John’s may not be conducive to school spirit anymore, no matter how hard the Rock may try. After decades of high-flying student sections and raucous crowds everywhere, including soccer games, St. John’s dominance may be over.

There is one caveat, though. As drab as the crowds at Belson and DaSilva (and even Carnesecca at times) can be, the men’s basketball team always packs their house, making the arena feel like a New York City high school gymnasium.

That proves, to me, that the students do care about Red Storm sports. The winter months show that the St. John’s community can bond over athletics and show their spirit, something they neglect to do during the fall and spring, when less than 100 people show up to watch the storied Red Storm baseball program, even though they have made the NCAA Tournament countless times over the last 20-plus springs.

I don’t know how, but there must be a way to get kids to fill the seats in non-basketball sports. Giveaways can only go so far; the product on the field, at some point, has to speak for itself.

If the athletic department figures out how to send the right message to students, and once students realize that St. John’s sports are climbing back to mediocrity, then we may not need the Spirit Rock at all.

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About the Contributor
Dylan Hornik, Sports Editor Emeritus
Dylan Hornik is a senior journalism major and spent the last two years as a sports staff writer and Assistant Sports Editor for the Torch. He hoped to illuminate the rich history of St. John’s athletics while keeping readers up-to-date and informed on today’s sports teams, bringing together Johnnies from all walks of life. He has finished his undergrad years as of December 2017 and will be graduating in May.

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