- Letters to Editor
Eastern football had its first weekday home opener in 13 years last Thursday. To ensure the team had its 12th man in full effect, half of Alumni Coliseum’s commuter parking lot was closed all night Wednesday, Aug. 28, until Thursday, Aug. 29.
Athletics Director Mark Sandy said the goal of the weekday opener was to make sure more students attended the game. He added that the move prevented people from tailgating during the day as well as ensuring Colonel Club members were able to park in their usual spots.
Sandy said more than 10,000 people attended the game, which he attributed to Thursday night and free T-shirts to the first 4,000 students who attended the “Maroon Out.”
With Eastern’s reputation as a “suitcase college,” it’s good to have games a little earlier to bring out a larger crowd.
This did not come without a cost, however, as the university closed the bulk of the Alumni Lot to ensure that spaces would be available for those attending that evening’s game. As a result, many students complained about a lack of parking for classes during the day, saying they had to drive around for 30 minutes or more in search of a free parking spot, while others missed class altogether.
It clearly was a rough morning. But students are not entirely free from blame on this. Notification was given. On Tuesday, 12 foot electric signs were posted in the Alumni Lot to notify students of the closing. Additional parking was provided at the Center for the Arts and the Ashland Lot, along with a shuttle paid for by athletics.
That said, the university still has to do more on its end to ensure that the student body knows what’s happening. Blocking off the lot for the entire day posed a logistical nightmare—whether or not students took advantage of the additional parking at the Center.
Sandy said university officials looked at closing the lot later on in the day, but said it was impossible because there wouldn’t be any way to move cars out of the lot if the owner wasn’t there. Athletics did send out an email, but the subject was about the “Maroon Out” and didn’t specifically address the parking lot closures until midway through the email—which means most students probably never even saw it.
“Anything we can do to help improve communication, we would do it,” Sandy said when asked about the lack of clarity in the email. “But we do understand it was an inconvenience for the students, no question.”
Sandy did say there was precedent for closing the parking lot. Up until two years ago, Eastern hosted the All “A” Classic high school basketball tournament in February. The tournament closed the lot for three days and similar arrangements for additional parking were made, and campus survived (although not without a lot of grumbling).
Ultimately, students have to make attending class a priority, whether they’re impeded by a football game in August or a high school basketball tournament in February. But the university shouldn’t make it any more difficult than it needs to be, even if it costs a few fans tailgating before the game. After all, President Benson has said he doesn’t want athletics to overshadow academics.
Sandy said Eastern would host another Thursday night game in 2015 against Valparaiso. If last week was a test run for the future, at least we know a few things: opening the season at home on a Thursday is a great way to draw a big crowd, and more work needs to be done to ensure students aren’t caught again in a quagmire.