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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.