Basketball Game Attendance Continues To Be a Problem

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Basketball Game Attendance Continues To Be a Problem

Fordham's Lauren Holden, FCRH '19, calls a play on the court earlier this season. (Robert Cole/Fordham Sports)

Fordham's Lauren Holden, FCRH '19, calls a play on the court earlier this season. (Robert Cole/Fordham Sports)

Fordham's Lauren Holden, FCRH '19, calls a play on the court earlier this season. (Robert Cole/Fordham Sports)

Fordham's Lauren Holden, FCRH '19, calls a play on the court earlier this season. (Robert Cole/Fordham Sports)

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By MOHDSHOBAIR HUSSAINI
Asst. Sports Editor

This season, Fordham basketball has created excitement on campus. Many have looked at the success that Coach Jeff Neubauer has brought the men’s basketball program. Others, however, argue that the continued success of Fordham women’s basketball coach Stephanie Gaitley is just as commendable. Gaitley hasn’t just set goals for her team—she has achieved them. Despite her success, not too many students have been showing up to the Lady Rams’ games.

For the past three Lady Rams home games, the average turnout has been approximately 1,320 attendees. The opponents in these games were Davidson, George Mason, and Saint Joseph’s. The turnout for each game was as follows: 334, 2,410 and 1,215 attendees, respectively. The problem is that these home games were all at the Rose Hill Gym, which has a capacity of 3,200 attendees, more than double the averages.

Granted these conference games were during winter break, even the turnout for games during the fall semester was poor. During the previous semester, when Fordham hosted Caldwell, Lafayette, Delaware, Delaware State, Temple and Central Connecticut, the Rose Hill Gym crowd never surpassed 2,000 attendees. In fact, the number of attendees at games against Caldwell, Delaware, Temple and Central Connecticut did not exceed 600.

When asked, Coach Gaitley expressed the importance of better attendance. She described the Rose Hill Gym “as a major sixth man” on the court. “We need to protect our home court,” Gaitley said. It may be a small arena in comparison to other Division I schools, but “its close-knit environment makes it a major advantage.”

Now in her fifth season at the helm of the Fordham women’s basketball team, Coach Gaitley has produced the positive results that many students want. This was a team that only three years before her arrival, went an entire regular season not winning a single game. She revamped the program into a national power, bringing home three consecutive 20-win seasons, the school’s first Atlantic-10 Women’s Basketball Championship in 2013–14 and even an NCAA Championship Appearance in 2014.

Even though the Fordham women’s basketball team has struggled during the early stages of this season, the 8–11 overall record is quite misleading. “I think if we were to play the schedule we did before conference play now, we would have won more games. We now have more experience,” said Gaitley.

This is a team whose roster consists mainly of underclassmen. To be exact, 10 out of the 16 student-athletes are either freshmen or sophomores. Coach Gaitley accentuated this point: “We were young and we had to try different combinations until we found our niche.”

Ever since these Lady Rams found their niche mid-season, they’ve showcased a more rejuvenated offense. Senior forward Samantha Clark leads the team with 12.5 points per game (PPG) and 8.9 rebounds per game (RPG). Junior guard Hannah Missry averages 10.6 PPG, the second most on the team. as well as 37 percent from beyond the arc and 95 percent shooting from the free throw line.

“Our junior class is stepping up,” Gaitley said. This not only guarantees better chances this season, but for next year as well. When asked about Clark, Gaitley voiced a positive opinion of the senior: “Sam is playing some of her best basketball.”

Coach Gaitley and her squad are starting to put the right pieces together and it is definitely working. The team is currently 3–3 in Atlantic-10 play, which ties the school for fourth place. “It’s a tough league, and you’ve got tough teams,” Gaitley stated. Despite that, Fordham is just as capable competing in this competitive conference. “We are the underdogs just because of our personnel and depth.” The chemistry that this squad developed has already produced victories against Davidson and Saint Joseph’s.

There is still a lot of basketball to be played until the Atlantic-10 Championship in March. Despite the tough, early-season road losses against Princeton and St. Bonaventure, Coach Gaitley is sure that “playing on the road will pay off later on in the season.”

That leaves one recurring problem: home game attendance. When the spotlight was brightest, the Fordham women’s basketball team produced results. Coach Gaitley even emphasized the school’s marketing campaign. “We have giveaways, we bend backwards. Now it’s the students’ opportunity to give women’s basketball a chance.” With the women’s team hosting five more league matchups, a packed Rose Hill Gym could be quite the game changer.