Madison Square Garden: should we stay or go? Yes

Purple, teal and orange.

Looking into the crowd at Madison Square Garden at St. John’s blowout loss to Syracuse last week, one saw a plethora of empty purple and teal seats complemented by the overwhelming number of rabid Orange fans in attendance.

Being outnumbered by Syracuse fans at home was, in short, an embarrassment, and should send a shot to the groin hurting the pride of the University. Yet still fewer and fewer fans support the men’s basketball team regardless of how much the youthful Johnnies have struggled this season.

It might make more sense to play big games at Carnesecca Arena.

When the Storm played Connecticut, Rutgers, and Syracuse this season, all at Madison Square Garden, there were clearly more fans cheering on the Huskies, Scarlet Knights, and Orange. St. John’s went 1-2 in those games, and in its victory over Rutgers, the Johnnies nearly blew an 11-point lead late in the second half.

So please. Play Connecticut at Carnesecca. Play Pittsburgh there, too.

Sure Carnesecca Arena seats fewer fans, but seats are packed closer together and are closer to the floor than at Madison
Square Garden.

Take the Red Storm’s Feb. 22 home win against Seton Hall, the last game at Carnesecca Arena this season. With the score tied at 61, the crowd got to its feet and cheered so loud those fans in Stoors, Piscataway, and ‘Cuse could hear them. The change in momentum silenced the Pirates as Paris Horne grabbed a steal and took it for a layup. St. John’s didn’t look back.

Playing Eastern Michigan and NJIT at Carnesecca is fine considering the Storm beat those teams in convincing fashion. But St. John’s hung with then-No. 4 Connecticut during the first half of their 67-55 loss, and they just might have won if there were more fans in red in attendance that night.

A few weeks ago, the Daily News announced that Duke would not renew its contract with St. John’s because the University didn’t feel it would benefit from playing the Johnnies.

Could anyone blame Coach K’s crew? The Dukies are used to playing before a packed crowd of screaming fans every night regardless of where the game is played. Madison Square Garden on game night these days has become as exciting as a funeral parlor.

If more students filled the stands at Carnesecca Arena, it would create the atmosphere of Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke’s home court, where the noise and fan involvement create the aura of a tense environment.

Fans at Duke are passionate, loud, and creative with their insults. They pack so close to the court that opposing players don’t want to inbound the ball out of fear of being grabbed by some of the Cameron Crazies.

By stealing a page out of Duke’s playbook, and that of other schools around the country, St. John’s would create an electric college basketball environment, the kind of environment that makes the student body flock to the arena. It is exactly the kind of environment Carnesecca Arena, St. John’s University, and the rest of New York City needs.

Throw losses in revenues and contracts out the window for a second. What is more important, bringing in boatloads of money in revenues and contracts or getting this University excited about basketball again which should, in turn, generate more revenue and lead to more lucrative contracts?

It’s not like the University is making that much money in the first place. In order to get students (and faculty…and employees) to games, St. John’s has to offer incentives in the form of MetroCards, movie tickets, food, t-shirts, and transportation to and from games. These things do cost money.

Such changes may not be enough to pull out games against Connecticut, Rutgers, or Syracuse, who due to geographic closeness to the school will bring their fans in large numbers no matter where the games are played.

But it sure beats looking at purple and teal seats every game and listening to chants of ‘Let’s Go Orange!’ at home games.