Attention Dawg Pack, Zzu Cru, Pit Crew and all you other student basketball rooting sections: Maybe you should be compensated for your work.
Those cheering sections at Washington, WSU and Oregon do their partisanship thing for free, but Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating is putting a new twist on the value of that presence.
Santa Clara has its own student section for basketball, the Ruff Riders (the school nickname is the Broncos), but it’s not always peopled to the extent Keating would like.
Keating, you may recall, unleashed his own promotion for Santa Clara’s home game with Gonzaga Jan. 5, when he feared that the tail end of the holiday break would mean that SCU students wouldn’t pack the gym. The school announced a program by which Keating would spring for $100 toward a hotel/motel room for any student who would come back early for that game. (The school had a verification policy to ensure it was attracting only its students.)
Well, Keating, the coaching incarnation of Barnum and Bailey, has another brainstorm that Santa Clara announced Wednesday afternoon. For every 100 Ruff Riders in attendance (and they must stay throughout) for the Portland game Thursday night, Keating will front $100 in a post-game drawing. If there are 1,000 student rooters, that’s 10 payouts of $100 each.
This one is going to test the mercenary instincts of the Santa Clara students, because Portland doesn’t offer much appeal at 8-14 overall and 1-6 in the West Coast Conference.
Santa Clara is a good team at 16-6, one that had a second-half lead at Duke Dec. 28, but drawing fans has been a challenge. The Gonzaga game filled the house with 4,907, but a week later, with an attractive opponent in BYU, the Broncos drew only 2,853. The first league game over the holiday break Jan. 2, against San Francisco, pulled in just 2,146.
The Broncos appear to be a cut below the WCC’s upper crust of Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU, and no doubt, there’s some frustration in that for Keating, who knows that a boisterous student section is one means to inching up the food chain.
Gotta give him credit, although there’s probably a downside if the Ruff Riders don’t respond. If they don’t, we’ll know whether they’re an extension of the old line, “You couldn’t pay me to go watch that team.”