Last year, football returned to campus with much fanfare. This year, a pair of sports teams return back home with not as much attention paid to them.
But I'm just as excited for them as I was for football.
I'm talking about the men's and women's soccer teams. (A point of disclosure: The Collegian's sports editor is a men's soccer player but he had no influence over the writing of this column). After a two year hiatus in which they played in Chesterfield, it's about time that they get to play a true home game.
At this time last year, I wrote a column wondering why soccer couldn't be played at the new football stadium. Now, I'm sure what I wrote had no impact on the athletic department's decision (I don't have that big of an ego), but I think it's only right that I give it credit for bringing the sport back to Richmond's campus.
During the two years that they played their games roughly 20 minutes from campus, I admit I only attended one game - a women's soccer game last year against Virginia Commonwealth University. That's why, when the women's team takes the field Sept. 1 against Old Dominion University and the men's team returns Sept. 21 against United States Naval Academy, I'll be there ready to welcome them back (most likely in a reporter's capacity, but that's beside the point).
And I encourage my fellow Richmond students to also attend. Prove to the athletic department that it made the right decision in bringing a non-money generating sport back to campus. After all, the athletes and coaches put in just as much time and effort as any other sport. They deserve to be supported especially after hardly getting any fanfare the past two years (the men's team averaged 232 fans per game last year; women's figures were not available as the new athletic website's archive page have yet to be updated).
The student body has a reputation of not supporting its teams. It has improved in some areas the past few years, most notably in men's basketball, but it still needs work in other sports. Which is why this is the perfect opportunity for Richmond students to remove that stigma.
While I don't expect thousands of fans tailgating outside the stadium hours before the start of the game or a skydiver to deliver the game ball like last year's inaugural football game, I still hope to see at least a passionate section of students cheering on the soccer teams throughout the season.
Granted the men's team has had a winning season just once in the past seven years while the women's team has been consistently a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 team. Remember that other Richmond teams have been able to make remarkable turn-arounds.
It wasn't that long ago that the men's basketball team had an eight-win season and a little before that that there were rumors that the football team was going to be dropped down to the non-scholarship Patriot League. The football team won the 2008 National Championship and this year the men's basketball team will raise a Sweet 16 banner.
That's not to say that I expect a deep post-season run for either team but they should be supported as if they have that pedigree. But even if a team goes through a losing season, it should still at least count on the support of its students.
Just watch an international soccer match and see how intense the fans are. When you combine that sport with a college fan base, which can provide some of the best home-field advantages in sports, it has the potential to be a wild environment.
Then we can talk about getting a skydiver to bring the soccer ball to the field.