Norm Roberts. Two years ago, the head coach’s name became synonymous with Red Storm men’s basketball.
After the firing of Mike Jarvis, Roberts was brought in to the floundering program in an effort to rebuild a once-great team that was losing prestige amidst a sea of scandals.
Roberts’ hiring brought attention to St. John’s and its men’s basketball program.The New York Daily News, the New York Times and ESPN all carried stories of the newly hired coach and sports fans nationwide were bombarded with information about Roberts.
Yet just two years later, it appears as though Roberts has been forgotten by his own community.
A survey conducted by The Torch found that 71 percent of responding students could not name the coach of the men’s basketball team.
“I would think more would know who Norm is, but then again, if you’re not a fan I don’t know where you would get that exposure if you’re not looking for it,” said Chris Monasch, athletic director at St. John’s.
“I have no idea [what the coach’s name is],” one freshman responded. “Is it necessary to know the coach’s name? Why?”
The survey also found that, of the 439 students surveyed, 62 percent of the student population were unable to name a single player on the team.
“I think that’s a shame,” said John Kelly, co-chair of the school spirit committee. “It’s something we’re working on now with Campus Activities.”
The Torch survey also found that 60 percent of students had never been to a St. John’s men’s basketball game.
“I followed closely freshman year, then stopped because of scandals, poor record, etc.,” one senior wrote.
“That is a little disturbing,” said Jennifer Gorman-Stokes, co-chair of the school spirit committee. “It’s almost ignorance. They (the students) don’t care enough.”
Attendance is down this year, following the trend shown by the survey. While men’s basketball averaged 6,244 people in attendance during the 2004-05 season, attendance has only averaged 5,291 fans per game this season.
Students cited numerous reasons for the lack of attendance, ranging from the team not being good to the numerous possible activities that New York City has to offer.
Among the top reasons, however, were the lack of school spirit at St. John’s (at 42 percent) and the high price of tickets (at 33 percent).
Admission to the men’s basketball games, which were free for home games last year, was priced at $10 this year. Nearly 51 percent of student respondents felt that the new price was too high for the average college student.
“Making games free so that going to the game or spending 10 bucks on a movie instead isn’t a conflict, it’s a better idea,” one sophomore responded.
“Ten dollars is still comparable to a first-run movie,” Monasch said.
Along with the varied personal reasons given for not attending games, students also cited poor marketing by the athletic department.
Approximately 12 percent of students felt that the marketing of games was awful; 32 percent felt it was poor; and 39 percent of students responded that marketing was moderate. Only 15 percent said that marketing was good while the remaining 2 percent responded that they were doing a great job.
“The product has to be there, and it’s getting there,” Monasch said, “and we have to do a better job of trying to reach out to the students, and to all of our fan base.
“We constantly, in meetings, are asking people, ‘How do we let people know? What can we do differently? What can we do better?'” Monasch continued.
The poor attendance and lack of spirit, however, have to do with more than just marketing Gorman-Stokes said.
“A lot of it has to do with who your friends are,” Gorman-Stokes said. “If you’re friends with people who are really into St. John’s, you’re going to get dragged to a game and you’re going to have fun.”