This is a scene we have repeated for two decades. Fans packing the stands for a game against a team we will undoubtedly crush. TV cameras recording our annual 15 minutes of fame. Fans in full body paint screaming at the top of their lungs. Toilet paper raining down onto the court.
In many ways, the TP Game defines us as a University. We put pictures of it on all our brochures and brag about being USA Today’s best technical foul. Many prospective students and incoming freshman are led to believe that basketball is a big deal on campus. Unfortunately, this is not true. After the TP is cleaned up and the moment fades, so does our collective interest in basketball.
The Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament provides the perfect opportunity to prove our fandom, but based on our turnout this season, we have a lot of work to do.
Barely packing the stands for early-season out-of-conference teams is understandable. Having only half-full stands for a matchup against the number 3 ranked team in the country is not. This is the first time we have hosted the tournament, and it can be a huge advantage for us, but only if we show up. If we do not fill the stands to capacity at the tournament, then we are doing our school and our athletes a disservice. If the stands are not packed, then we will waste not only our best chance to impact our teams’ seasons, but also our chance to create a tradition that lasts beyond the first points at the TP Game.
With Bill George Arena in its early years, the conference tournament has the potential to be its biggest event yet.
Every year, when our men’s basketball team scores and the TP flies, the arena fills up with electricity usually reserved for places like Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. Obviously the decibel and intensity levels are higher at larger universities, but for a few moments, despite our small size, we feel like a big-time basketball school. If we can translate even half of the atmosphere from the TP game to the tournament, then we can make Bill George a formidable place to play.