Smaller schools like APSU will likely never win a championship in any sport. In some sports such as football, APSU does not play in the highest division.
Students and athletes alike know this when choosing to attend less well-known schools like APSU over larger schools in the area, like the universities of Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, but that does not mean that the experience at smaller schools can’t live up to that of major institutes with a history of success at the highest level.
I’m talking about the need for traditions like that of successful programs. Over fall break, I was given the opportunity to travel to Kansas University where college basketball was started and home of last year’s tournament runner-up.
While there, I was able to tour the campus and for a brief moment, be part of a school twice the size of APSU in a town that is consistently ranked in the top 10 college towns in the country year after year. That was not, however, the most memorable part of the visit.
On Friday, Oct. 12, the university hosted the annual “Late Night at the Phog,” the equivalent of the APSU’s “Reigning Red” in which the basketball program hosts the first official practice of the year late at night and fans come to the event to see the first glimpse of the basketball teams for the upcoming year.
It’s easy to see the major difference in the two events put on by the two programs: APSU plays in an arena that holds under 10,000 fans that rarely fills every seat while KU plays in an arena that seats 16,300 fans and was filled within 30 minutes of the doors being opened at Late Night.
APSU plays in the Ohio Valley Conference and is constantly fighting every year to secure the OVC’s one spot in the NCAA tournament while Kansas plays in the Big 12 and has made the tournament for over 20 consecutive years.
The one difference that set the two programs apart, though, is traditions. I’m not talking tradition as in the history of the programs success.
OVC schools will not be able to compete with major programs that have been around since the birth of college basketball in terms of success throughout program history nor will they be able to recruit the top prospects from high school like larger programs can, but that should not hinder smaller schools from acting like larger programs.
Traditions encompass more than just wins, losses and championships. At Late Night at the Phog, I participated in all the traditions I have watched over the years: the cheers, the band playing a combination of classics that have been played for years and newer songs added every year, the sea of blue in the stands and many more.
Alumni and fans throughout the years were there singing the alma mater, reminiscing on old clips from years past, and cheering like they were currently happening right in front of them. What traditions could we do? That is for the students to decide.
Traditions such as dressing up to a common theme, throwing confetti, singing songs, joining into unanimous chants and many more are common at every school that has ever won a championship.
We may never win a national championship in the foreseeable future, but why not create traditions that make people and athletes want to come participate in at APSU?
I have seen many stories on ESPN of lesser-known schools who have great traditions and use them to their advantage to recruit athletes and bring in students, along with keeping the alumni coming back to be a part of the glory they once participated in.
It won’t happen over night, and it may not happen in this decade, but APSU needs traditions. We need something that our thousands of graduates want to come back to and participate at sporting events, something that will give them another reason to send their children to the place the brought them so much happiness.
Its time to make APSU more than just another small school in a small conference, its time to set ourselves apart from the rest. Together, the APSU students and fans can make it happen.