The Hump hasn’t been anywhere near the intimidating atmosphere that it used to be. It hasn’t met the standard that was set during the height of the Stansbury era. Ethan Lee, Justin Strawn, and Evan Ertel sat down to discuss what can be done to fix this.
Ethan Lee: Attendance is obviously an issue. It has been for years now. In part due to the obvious lack of success in basketball and also due to the fact that Starkville is a small, rural town.
Obviously there's no quick fix, and the athletic department is doing everything they can to improve it with interesting promotions (sometimes weird promotions) but is there anything more that they can do? What are y'all's thoughts?
Justin Strawn: I get why people are concerned, and I read the article by Bonner, but I think people are over complicating things. The team isn't winning at a high level so people aren't coming. Am I over simplifying this?
Ethan: Well, the thing about the beginning of the Dan Mullen era was people showed up and were loyal before the team really had any significant success. The basketball team has seen the opposite so far. I think that's why it's considered a big issue
Evan Ertel: Okay so here's a little different take on this. Mississippi State as a fan base and community loves the whole "family" mantra. We love our student athletes usually on a level that is more than "I love that you're good at sports."
Think of States top SAs right now and for some reason it feels like I know them on a somewhat personal level. Fans acted like Dak was their brother/son and call for unconditional support for our boys in maroon every Monday after a bad loss because they do t want the players feelings hurt. It also feels like I have a personal connection with the baseball team, maybe because the volume of games and I see them more often but the team gives off personality and you form a connection to the team.
Same with our women's basketball even. I feel like Victoria Vivians is my best friend and Vic Schafer is a distant uncle that I could ask for money from if I needed. I'm not sure why or how this happened with those teams and players, but I haven't seen it happen with basketball yet and it hasn’t for a while, not since the days of Jarvis and Dee Bost.
Justin: I think it's a difference in sports though. Football is an easy sell to Mississippians. Just offer hope, and they'll come. Basketball doesn't have the same caché. Plus, football games are social events with tailgating. It's an event. Basketball doesn't have that.
We're not the only school going through this. Look around the SEC and you'll see other schools struggling as well.
Evan: I saw a story with the same concerns include big programs like UCLA too
Ethan: Evan, to your point, I tend to agree. The only Ray coached player I truly felt somewhat connected to was Gavin Ware.
And then we were burned by Malik Newman
Evan: I feel like the marketing department, as great as they are and as hard as they're working, aren't doing enough to promote the players themselves. Q should be plastered everywhere, all over our program, in my opinion
Ethan: Get Q up everywhere. Followed by local kids like Tyson Carter. That'll help get Starkville natives at more games
Justin: This goes back to the one and done problem hurting NCAA basketball. Outside Mississippi State, there are very few players I know anything about. The stars are gone after every season and no one knows who is good unless you follow every single incoming recruit. I had no idea who was going to be on Kentucky's team, but I knew they'd be good because they're Kentucky.
Ethan: And to some degree we see that same sort of detachment in football across the board with big programs as well. I never know who Alabama will have at running back until I see him run for 3648 yards in the playoffs.
Justin: One other problem is the atmosphere. The Hump was incredible during the height of the Stansbury era, but we have gone to so many gimmicks that it just isn't the same. I get the need to make money, but if we just forced a team to take a timeout and the crowd is loud as can be, you lose it when you do a kiss cam or a tricycle race.
Evan: Yeah I think a part of it is that MSU marketing can't get out of their own way and just let a time out be a time out
Ethan: It's similar to the football games and awful ads from a few years back
Justin: I don't know if that hurts attendance, but I don't think it does anything to help.
Ethan: I doubt it's a direct impact, but if you create a stale environment and the team doesn't win, then why would casual fans show up?
People that don't have any real affinity for the game aren't going to show up.
Justin: Coming from the perspective of a guy with a family, making a two hour trip to see a basketball game is a different animal than going to a football game. If I'm traveling down to Starkville with my family for a two hour game and then turning around and heading home, is it worth it for that, especially when we are probably going to lose?
We're coming down for the Texas A&M game next week but only because my wife is going to drop my son and I off and the. She and my daughter are going to go shop at some of the crafty type places downtown during the game. Then we'll make the rest of the day a family day, but if we weren't trying to do other things than watch the game, I'm not sure we would.
Ethan: You, and many fans your age with families, are certainly in a tougher spot than say Evan or myself.
Justin: This is why I think winning will solve a lot of issues. If we're winning, you don't mind figuring out the logistics of making such a trip.
Evan: I'm ready for students to get back because even for the sake of the players on the floor, the student section being mostly full should help maybe spark some excitement. Once some local people see that students are not showing up to support, they might as well too
Ethan: Should there be any effort to relocate the student section?
Evan: Personally I wish it was on the sidelines
Justin: Yes, that's part of what killed the atmosphere when they moved them in the first place.
Ethan: If we were to make a wish list for the athletic department, so far it would include limiting the goofy gimmicks at timeouts and return the student section to its proper place. Anything else?
Justin: We also can't forget the competition the Bulldogs play. The nonconference schedule had no teams that would draw people in. Our Power 5 team was a bad Oregon State team. And it doesn't get much better with SEC play. The SEC is so bad, there's no team to draw fans in.
I would expect the team to be on the road more in December next year. Cohen told me when I had him on his show that the Women's team played most of their games on the road during that time because attendance would be so small. The Men's team needed a non hostile environment to play in due to the inexperience. Next year, they should be able to hand it then.
My show, not his.
Ethan: Cue the hot taeks about how the team is too talented to be affected by youth
Justin: I want to throw my phone every time I see someone tweet something along those lines.
Ethan: But if the team is on the road in December, that’ll make it less noticeable when students aren’t present because of the holidays.
Justin: Which is what Cohen wants.