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Solving the St. Thomas school spirit problem

By , Columnist  |  Wednesday, November 6, 2013 8:42 PM

Going to St. Thomas football games can be really painful.

As a senior, I’ve seen my fair share of St. Thomas sports for fun and while working for TommieMedia. But I will always remember how dumbfounded I was after arriving at my first football game freshman year.

Coming from Cretin-Derham Hall high school, I was used to filling O’Shaughnessy Stadium every Friday night for high school football games. So, when I walked into a half-empty stadium for a Saturday afternoon college football game, I was kind of depressed.

Three years later and it hasn’t gotten much better. Besides Tommie-Johnnie games, I can’t help but feel like St. Thomas has a school spirit problem. I understand that Division-III games are not going to create the same amount of hype as our BIG 10 neighbors at the University of Minnesota, but I think there are two things we can absorb from the Gophers’ college gameday experience.

The first thing our school needs is a new athletic motto. Let’s face it, “Go Tommies” is generic and a bit of a let down. The vast majority of time when I hear the phrase coming from students, it comes off as a joke or mockery. I want to hear something the entire stadium can chant together on a big third down as the Tommies are driving toward the end zone. ALEX_COLUMN_GRAPHIC

Go to any sporting event at the University of Minnesota and you’ll hear “Ski-U-Mah” ring through the crowd. Whether it’s football or hockey, the traditional slogan continues to rouse fans. We’ve seen a move toward something like this at St. Thomas, but the problem is that there are too many slogans flying around for any one to stand out. The football team alone already has, “Pride and Passion,” “F.A.M.I.L.Y.” and “TRUST,” along with other teams having specific slogans. The phrases are great, but our fans and athletes need a strong, singular phrase everyone can get behind.

Creating a new, all-encompassing slogan for our athletics could be used in a marketing campaign for the university to draw in fans. The reinvention of the motto could boost revenue with new apparel sporting the slogan; there’s no reason I should see “Roll Tide” T-shirts worn around campus if we have something just as cool. Heck, we could even have a campus-wide contest for the best slogan, creating a buzz. At the very least, the crowd chanting in solidarity may wake up some of those freshmen still sleeping in Brady Hall, forcing them come outside to see what the ruckus is all about.

The second idea that we can take from the University of Minnesota is the pre-game tailgate. Being a lifelong Packers fan that consistently tailgates at Lambeau Field, I know all too well how awesome this tradition can be in experiencing a football game.

On Tommie-Johnnie, you’ll see the classic “kegs and eggs” parties leading up to the game. Those are fun, but what I’m suggesting would be a little less stressful for the university and Public Safety from weekend to weekend, and a little more family-friendly.

We’ve got some big parking lots on campus that alumni and students alike could use for tailgating. I think the most logical place would be Lot G next to Admissions and the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center; it’s big and accessible to the stadium without crossing streets. Or, for even more space, South Campus’ Lot O would be another good option.

St. Thomas could configure this area and the rules behind it however it wants, while still making it an epicenter for food, fun and Tommie pride every home game.

The sparsely populated Purple on the Plaza is kind of a drag because nobody’s there and there’s no incentive to come; however, letting Tommie fans set up their grills and cornhole games on campus will bring a much stronger following on gameday.

Just the idea of tailgating on campus makes me want to throw on some Tommie gear. The experience could benefit students and the university in ways that surpass school spirit. On-campus tailgating would give students a chance to meet and network with St. Thomas alumni in a relaxed environment beyond encounters in a business suit. We’re supposedly all about networking here, so let’s embrace a little fun along with it.

My suggestions won’t completely solve the lack of school spirit because, in the end, I can’t make people get outrageously excited about D-III athletics; however, if these ideas can encourage students to get out and support the Tommies on game day, maybe we can debunk the notion of St. Thomas being a “suitcase college.”

I’m waiting to hear those Tommies roar.

Alex Goering can be reached at goer8777@stthomas.edu.

This item was posted in Opinions and has 3 comments so far.

3 Comments

  1. tj murphy
    Nov. 9, 2013 3:07 PM

    “Go Tommies” means a lot to present and former Student/Athletes. It promotes an atmosphere of enthusiastic support of St. Thomas. I have seen large groups of students watching Men’s Basketball and Women’s Tennis in the ARC. There are lots of “weekend” basketball players and tennis players at St.Thomas. Combine that with hard working top teams and you have a following. If I remember right the Green Bay slogan is “Go Pack Go”. Maybe Go Tommies Go would be more of a roar. One must remember the U of M is a “suitcase university” whose stadium seats are filled by non-students. Grilling in one of the Parking lots would be fun, as there are so many under used parking areas, at St. Thomas (joke). Group bonding while cleaning up too. St. Thomas could also always give out free hats at games and get another fifty “free swag” fans at games. Our location makes for St. Thomas to not be the only game in town, but it has many of the best Div. III sports in the country. Go Tommies Go.

  2. Ryan Quinlivan
    Nov. 9, 2013 4:32 PM

    You and Nick Goffard should talk, he wrote a piece for The Scroll applauding UST’s gameday atmosphere. I think you are both partially right, it was interesting seeing both views in the same week! http://www.stthomas.edu/news/2013/11/07/scroll-time-show-purple/

  3. Trina Sturlaugson
    Nov. 11, 2013 6:02 PM

    I think St. Thomas has a lot of spirit! For being a “suitcase campus” where many students go home, I think we have a lot of spirit. We have many championship or playoff winning teams at UST and I think those who truly enjoy sports will watch. Many people don’t enjoy sports and wouldn’t go no matter what was offered. Tommies often are busy and make time to attend major games like Homecoming and Tommie Johnnie but don’t have the time to attend every game. While it would be idea to get a huge crowd every game, I think Tommie’s have a lot more spirit than many schools and do their best to support the teams at UST. 

    P.S. Parking is already an issue at UST so taking a lot for tailgating is going to make people less happy, not more happy. And UST probably wouldnt want to do it when Purple on the Plaza is revenue-generating for them. 

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