A sporting counterculture has formed at the University of Richmond, creating a visible lack of students present at sporting events, a divide between the athletes and their classmates and a problem for UR athletics that remains unsolved, students and athletes said.
“It's engrained into the student culture to only go to specific games,” said Tim Wing, a senior and sports marketing intern for Richmond Athletics. “Richmond is a work hard, party hard school.
"When students are not studying for exams or doing homework, they are at a fraternity party off-campus or are in their room or apartment with their friends hanging out. That's the culture.”
This culture where few students go to sports games – apart from the bigger ones – is recognized by other students and even the athletes themselves, others said.
“I think that the culture here is not big on sports in general,” said Seyoum Settepani, redshirt sophomore offensive lineman for the football team. “There is not a lot of school pride here compared to many other schools. I think that has to do with the people that go here.”
For fifth-year cross country runner Johnny Hogue, low student support is nothing new, he said.
“School spirit has always been lacking at the University of Richmond,” Hogue said. "This is my fifth year here, and nothing has changed since freshman year."
One athlete said this lack of school spirit, consequently, created a real divide between non-athletes and athletes. Settepani described the separation of the student body as a them-versus-us situation.
“The regular students and student athletes don’t get along a lot of the time because [student athletes] think [regular students] are entitled, and [regular students] think that [student athletes] don’t desire to be here a lot of the time,” Settepani said.
Other student athletes think the key to solving these issues comes from better communication.
“If my basketball team wants more people at our games, it is simple," senior guard Keith Oddo said. "We have to do a better job of interacting with students. Friends will always support friends, so it is our job now to build those friendships.”
Nicole Piercy, a senior on the swim and dive team, agreed with her classmate.
“I think that’s the key," she said, "both non-athletes and athletes, overall, being more supportive of each other and more willing to get to know each other. If athletes and non-athletes became better friends, groups collide and circles of support grow.”
University athletics, though, has continued its efforts to encourage more students to attend sporting events through various methods such as allowing students to drink alcohol at tailgates and instituting half-time contests, among other strategies, Courtney Chenault, Richmond Rowdies club president said.
Another method employed by the athletics department is the Athletes Supporting Athletes initiative, where student athletes from other sports come to games to support their schoolmates, Wing said.
“Just a couple weeks ago, field hockey had over 60 athletes at least come out to watch their game,” Wing said. “There were only a few non-student athletes there to watch, including myself.”
The director of athletics, John Hardt, and the deputy athletic director, David Walsh, were not available for comment.
"There has to be a cultural change on campus. I don’t think there is anything else that Athletics could do," Chenault said. "There won’t be a change in attendance until there is a cultural shift in attitudes towards sporting events."
Contact senior sports writer Jacob Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.