Only 373 people show to watch the EMU Eagles win their first postseason game since 1996… Let’s make it up to them if they get another home game


Eastern Michigan University men’s basketball team had the distinction of making it onto the front page of Deadspin last night after the popular sports website was made aware of a series of justifiably angry social media posts made by starting EMU forward Glenn Bryant following the team’s 58-54 victory over the Norfolk State Spartans at the EMU Convocation Center. Bryant, as you can see in the following Twitter post, was none too pleased that only 373 people turned out to see the Eagles win their first postseason game since 1996.


Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 8.55.13 PM

The EMU Convocation Center, by the way, seats 8,824. So that means fewer that 1 of every 20 seats was filled. (During the 19 regular season home games this year, according to the EMU athletic department, the team was drawing an average of 901 fans.) It’s also worth noting that tickets to the game were just $5 for students with valid EMU ID… Oh, and EMU has well over 23,000 students.

Given the hysteria over March Madness, I don’t think it’s too much of surprise that smaller postseason tournaments like the CIT ( Tournament), in which unranked teams that never get television airtime, like the Eastern Eagles, go head-to-head to keep their seasons alive, fail to attract much interest. Still, though, it’s criminal that only 373 from a campus community of close to 25,000 would turn out to cheer them on. I’m sure that most of these guys were playing in front of larger crowds in high school.

I’m not sure what the future holds for the Eagles, but, as I understand it, their next opponent will be determined tonight, and I suppose it’s conceivable that they’ll have another game this season at the Convention Center… And, if they are, I say we fill the place to the fucking rafters!

update: The next round will apparently be in NYC this Saturday night, where the Eastern Eagles will take on the Columbia University Lions. (For details, check out the comments section of this post.)

[note: While we’re on the subject of EMU organizations in desperate need of our support, the school’s radio station, the local NPR affiliate, WEMU, is approaching the end of their annual spring fundraising drive, and they’re still $83,000 away from their $200,000 goal. I know times are hard, but, if you have a few dollars, please consider making a donation. As evidenced by their recent coverage of our charitable sausage-eating activities, they really are making an effort to step in and fill the gap left open by the downsizing of our regional newspapers.]

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  1. Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Background from the EMU athletics site:

    The 2014 CIT is made up of non-BCS programs which have not been selected to participate in the NCAA or NIT, and all 31 games are played on campus sites. In an effort to minimize travel and limit class time missed, the CIT uses the old NIT model, with future round opponents determined by results of the previous round which ensures geographic stability. The CIT began as a 16-team event its first two years in 2009 and 2010, expanded to 24 teams in 2011, and 32 teams in 2012. East Carolina won the 2013 tournament title.

  2. tommy
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    The Convo has been filled one time to my knowledge and that was years ago when EMU hosted UM. Commuters don’t hang around at night and the few thousand that are around the area probably aren’t too interested in shelling out money for a third rate tourney game on a Tuesday night. Athletic attendance historically has been poor for every sport, at least since I walked on to campus in 1981 with the exception of the six or so seasons that the bball team rocked the old barn (Bowen Field House). The convocation center – or “the house that Earl built” – is a nice facility but it will only get fans in attendance when the team is good. It’s been a long time since there has been a good product on the hardwood. The new AD has her job cut out for her in terms of gaining interest and excitement in athletics at EMU. No one has been able to do it in my time here.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    It begs the question why schools like EMU feel compelled to have athletics programs at all. As best I can figure, it’s like gambling. They invest the money in hopes of having a sports program that somehow breaks through, makes money and puts the school on the map. It’s nearly impossible, though.

  4. Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    The next round will be in NYC this Saturday night. The following announcement was sent out last night by the EMU athletic department. If they should win, I imaging there’s a chance that they’ll be coming back to play the next game in Ypsi.

    After knocking off Norfolk State University, 58-54, in the first round of the 2014 Tournament (CIT), the Eastern Michigan men’s basketball team will find itself traveling to New York, N.Y. to square off with Columbia University to take on the Lions in a second round contest Saturday, March 22, at 7 p.m. inside Levien Gymnasium.

    The win over Norfolk State marks the first postseason victory in program history since the 1995-96 campaign when the Eagles knocked off Duke University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. In addition, Eastern currently maintains a 22-14 record which is the most wins in a single season for the EMU basketball program since the 1996-97 team that also won 22. With a second round CIT victory, the Green and White will have the fourth-most victories in EMU’s 117-year basketball history and the most since the Green and White totaled 25 wins in 1995-96.

    Columbia is currently 20-12 and finished tied for third in their conference with an 8-6 mark in Ivy League contests. Columbia knocked off Valparaiso University, 58-56, in the first round of the CIT Tuesday, March 18, on a buzzer beater, advancing the Lions into the second round. The victory over the Crusaders gave the Lions their seventh 20-win season in Columbia basketball history. CU won 19 games in the regular season, the most by a Lions squad since the 1969-70 season.

    The Eagles and Lions have have never met on the hardwood, but Eastern has already spent some time in New York this season. The Green and White traveled to Syracuse, N.Y. and fell, 70-48, to the then-No. 2-ranked Syracuse University Orange, Dec. 31, 2013.

    Tickets for the second-round game will go on sale at noon on Thursday, March 20, by visiting or calling 888-LIONS-11. Ticket prices for reserved seating starts at $15. A limited number of premium chairback seats are available for $25. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the ticket office in the Dodge Fitness Center on campus.

    And, yes, they beat Duke in ’96.

    From Wikipedia: One of the great highlights in team history came after EMU’s first round victory over Duke in 1996, when the Blue Devils’ Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski stated, “Eastern Michigan is very well coached, much deeper than we are and, today, much quicker than we were.”

  5. jcp2
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    That was almost two decades ago. What’s more amazing is that Coach K is still at Duke, coaching.

  6. Ben
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Honestly, I’m not really into sports so I probably wouldn’t be likely to go to a game, but I’d be more likely if they actually played on campus. It’s so ridiculous that EMU extended itself so far north and west. Ypsi is so intentionally walkable. We need to divest from the non walkable parts of town in terms of where stuff happens. If they played at Bowen Field House, you could have so many people who live in Ypsi or live on campus walking to the game. Who wants to deal with parking / traffic if you don’t have to?

  7. Elf
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I imagine that schools with winning sports teams do better when it comes to alumni donations.

  8. Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    “I imagine that schools with winning sports teams do better when it comes to alumni donations.”

    So then, it’s gambling.

  9. Elf
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Yes, that’s my opinion.

  10. lorie
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    I arrived at EMU in ’82 and joined the marching band. This was when Northwestern won for the first time in 4 years – leaving the next longest loosing streak in the country to….EMU. We tied Kent State later in the season and tore down the goal posts in celebration. That is my EMU football story. Well, that and beating the team captains at quarters a year or so later.

    The sports complex is not on campus and the teams are not good enough to attract students to make the walk in the wet and cold even for free tickets.

    EMU is not a campus of 23,000+and its not the land of privilege that U of M is. My guess is that there are 4,000 to 5, 000 students living on campus with possibly another 2,000 – 3,000 live off campus in Ypsi. Those that do live here are working far too hard for their ramen noodles to give an emu squawk about watching a game.

    Criminal or not, its reality, not new, not likely to change.

  11. Elf
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I should elaborate. I think a large part of it can be attributed to a gamble on the part of administrations, as they know that winning programs bring students, strengthen the ties between these students and the university, and lead to increased donations post-graduation. I think part of it, also, can be attributed to the herd mentality of the industry. Administrators have come up in a system where “real universities” have sports teams. Given that, I think it would be difficult for a university president to opt out. As a result, they invest more and more, trying to distinguish themselves, not realizing that very few can actually sustain it. I also think that students, when asked, say they like going to schools with active sports programs.

  12. Dan Tremper
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I read where some jackass had attributed the team’s waning popularity to the changing of the name from Hurons to Eagles.

  13. Dan
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure that the university has to shell out the travel costs for this trip to NYC. So in all likelihood, this college basketball season was a very large net loss in money for the athletic department, even as it wins its first postseason game in nearly 2 decades

    Typically college basketball and football programs are supposed to generate enough money to support the “other sports” that dont generate revenue, like track and such. It’s likely that both the basketball and football programs at EMU dont make enough money to support THEMSELVES. So Anonymous is right to question why EMU even has an athletic department.

  14. Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Since not every team can be a winning team, and only a small minority of teams do become winning teams, it’s gambling.

    I question why any school needs an athletic department.

  15. Dan
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I question why any school needs an athletic department.

    Well, most BCS level schools run an athletic department that generates millions of dollars per year, while also providing scholarships for hundreds of student athletes, many of which could not afford to attend a university without it. Not to mention the jobs that are created through all levels of the athletic department, including stadium vendors, security, etc

    but if an athletic department is losing money every single year, then the school needs to reassess whether it makes sense to keep dumping money into something, or if the university is better off without it

  16. Eel
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I’m happy for them. Working hard and winning is good. And he’s right that more people should support them. With that said, though, I wonder how many campus events he and his teammates attend. Do they go to poetry readings? Football games? Women’s basketball games? I hope the answer is yes.

  17. Kristin
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    If they come back and play I’m in. I love watching basketball. I usually go to women’s games to inspire my tall child, but we could mix it up.

    p.s. I had to go back when I posted this because I got the math captcha question wrong. Using my fingers. I’ve never had that happen before…

  18. Dan
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    it’s not gambling at all. EMU knew it was going to lose money this year, win or lose, as it has for decades. Michigan knows that it will make money every year, win or lose, as it has forever. A few “good seasons” or “bad seasons” dont mean shit.

    There is much more involved in sports revenue than winning games. There is TV revenue, licensing and marketing, student tuition fees, university subsidies, ticket sales, and donations. Only the last two are dependent on short term team success, and they are small portions of EMUs AD budget.

    the decision to keep funding a financially losing athletic program has very little to do with a team winning a certain year or not. so gambling doesnt apply at all.

  19. Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Technically, college sports can’t be considered gambling any more than poker can be considered gambling (given the skill required to play).

    And you are correct that schools make money off licensing fees.

    But it is wholly impossible for all schools to have winning teams.

    If athletic programs are self-supporting and can operate without tax breaks I can’t argue against their existence. Yes, one can make the argument that other, tax paying sectors benefit from large sports programs, but, while it is probably true of UM, is it also true of EMU? I don’t know.

    I have a personal dislike for sports, I admit. It is a personal view that I don’t expect others to share. I would be more than happy to see all schools do away with their sports programs, or at least spin them off into private, self supporting entities which merely license the school’s name. I believe this is how Michigan’s model operates (outside of the public subsidy through tax breaks).

  20. ypsiday
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    “As with the College Basketball Invitational, the CIT is a pay-to-host tournament. Host schools pay a reported $35,000 base fee to do so, theoretically recouping the money through gate receipts, concessions and promotions.”

    Yeah, theoretically.

  21. Tom Mast
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I went. EMU had a good team this year–beating a team the went to NCAAs (WMU) and several the went to the NIT (RMU, UW-GB, UT).
    But that is not the point. I went to: get out the house, support Ypsi, support EMU, entertain my 5 y/o with a $5 ticket. Most importantly I went because I like to watch people with skills–the same reason why I go to plays/ballet at the power center and why I sneek off to Woodruffs.
    Why don’t others who actually care about college sports attend more regularly? I see: a certain amount of self-loathing amoung the town and gown for being ‘onlyEMU/Ypsi’; some alumni are still angry about the Hurons/Eagles thing (this is a very minor point belabored by a small contingent, but a heated discussion about it almost got Sue Martin fired a year or so ago), and lastly the busy schedule of the fans/students–many of them on a tight budget.

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