This is a letter to Ohio State University athletic director Gene Smith regarding the men’s basketball program and what could be done to enhance/improve it.
The Buckeyes have struggled to win this season and have been near the bottom of the Big Ten standings for most of it. There has also been a noticeable lack of fan enthusiasm in Columbus during the 2016-2017 season.
As a recent transfer student, my experience at men’s basketball games this season was much different than what I expected it to be as a longtime OSU fan watching from afar. On television over the past few years, the environment at the Value City Arena has seemed enthusiastic enough, but in person this season it is underwhelming.
This is surely to some extent due to the Buckeyes getting progressively worse every season in past years, but I think there are other factors at play. The problems on the court were detailed prior to this season here in a great article written by SB Nation’s Matt Brown.
In all honesty, I think that the biggest problem is that the men’s basketball team is not marketed correctly by the university athletic offices. At other universities, events and games involving the basketball team are seen as the main event.
Football may be king here at OSU, but that does not provide justification for our basketball team to fall by the wayside. As a person who has lived nearly all of his life away from this community, Ohio State basketball seemed like a main event from where I sat previously.
This is not the case here on campus. Programs like Kentucky, Duke, Indiana, and Michigan State market their teams in the correct way. Ohio State has competed with and beaten these teams on the court in recent years. Yet the fans of those other schools are rabid and loyal.
“Midnight Madness” is a tradition that many programs have adopted where the teams have their first open practice in the arena at midnight with musical performances and interaction between the players and fans. Ohio State has never used this concept that has been proven to create buzz at other smaller universities with less resources.
People camp out for tickets to Kentucky basketball’s “Big Blue Madness” year after year. The Wildcats sell out every basketball game they play and there is a buzz around their program like no other. Ohio State beat the Wildcats on the court just last season.
Coach Thad Matta and the team need a great crowd environment and a buzz both here and across the country to get the players necessary to win and get back to the Final Four. They accomplished that feat as recently as five years ago. They can do it again.
The powers that be in the Ohio State athletic office need to portray the team to fans and students as a team that needs to be seen, regardless of the record. Ohio State is a top program in the country basketball-wise, and we take it for granted.
So create events that incorporate fans. Ohio State football is maybe the biggest athletic program in the country. Basketball is run by the same officials. Find a way to incorporate those strategies in basketball and make the program the powerhouse that it should be.
There are fans that attend the football games here at OSU that know nothing about football or the name of anyone on the field. It is a must see event to the entire community. I believe that basketball games could be the same type of event.
There will be more at play than the “diehard” Block-O fans that largely seem to be alone at basketball games. The current fans seem to made-up of the same type of people. This will change if the correct moves are made.
Mr. Smith, please take advantage of the resources and the great community that you have at your disposal. Make Ohio State men’s basketball the main event that it could easily be. Trips to the Final Four and five-star recruits will follow. You have to win over your fan base first.