Do you have a sports arena or field that you have always wanted to see? Fenway Park, Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke, the Big House at Michigan, Yankee Stadium, Pauley Pavillion at UCLA, the Swamp at Florida…?
I was able to visit one of the places I have always wanted to see recently as I was in Albuquerque. I went to ‘The Pit’ where the Lobos of the University of New Mexico play basketball. Sports Illustrated has named it one of the top basketball arena’s in college hoops. Built into the ground, it seats 18,000 fans that howl and make hand-wolf signs while wearing a sea of red clothing at home games.
The author Charlie Adams took this picture of thousands of fans coming out to a University of New Mexico practice at ‘The Pit’ in mid October
“The Pit” was home to what ESPN’s Dick Vitale calls the greatest moment in basketball history that he ever witnessed. In 1983 the Final Four was there and underdog N.C. State stunned mighty Houston 54-52 on a Lorenzo Charles dunk at the buzzer. Coach Jim Valvano ran around the court looking for someone to hug after his Wolfpack had come from behind in every game that they played in the NCAA Tournament that year.
As I sat in ‘The Pit’ I thought of recruiting and the factor of certain schools being known for a sport that often can overshadow the other sports. The University of New Mexico is known as a ‘basketball school’ in a basketball-mad state. The reason I bring this up is that an athlete in another sport that goes there may get a bit irritated hearing how the school is a ‘basketball school’.
Athletes take pride in their sport, love their sport, and usually think it is the greatest sport of all of them. Although it is not the major factor in recruiting, you need to think about what a school is known for or otherwise you could go through a lot of aggravation.
For example, a high school athlete from Indiana – a state known for basketball – would have to go through an adjustment if he or she were to play college basketball in a state like Alabama, which eats and breathes football. Not that many people there don’t root for hoops and appreciate it, but the talk is football 365 days a year in states like Alabama, Texas and Georgia.
Years ago in the SEC they used to say that basketball was something to occupy the time between football season and spring football. There was a time in the SEC where an assistant football coach would be told to be head basketball coach. During the winter he would run the basketball program and then get right back to spring football practice. While that may make football people feel very proud, that can be very hurtful to someone that loves basketball or any other sport.
On the other side, a football player that signs with the University of Kentucky better get ready to hear Kentucky basketball talk for 365 days a year. There you hear that football helps them to pass the time to October when basketball season starts.
I think one of the schools at the D1 level that has done a good job of not having one sport outshine any other sport is Stanford. When you think of them, you don’t stay that’s a baseball school, or a football school. Heck, they are excellent in every sport which is why they usually get the Sears Director’s Cup for the best athletic program in all of college sports. Tiger Woods has said that when he played golf for Stanford he was basically just another peak performer on a campus filled with top flight athletes and with students that were tops academically in many fields. He could walk across campus basically unnoticed because he would be walking by students with a 4.0 in chemical engineering, a young musical genius, or a volleyball player that would soon be on the Olympic team.
However, certain schools have been known for certain sports throughout the years. For many years, Arizona State was a baseball school. Wake Forest was known for men’s golf. Because of John Wooden’s success, UCLA will forever be a basketball school. Alabama and Auburn are football schools. There was a time when I was growing up that I knew Clemson as more of a soccer school than anything else. I used to think of Oregon as a track school (now their football players are faster than the speed of sound).
Some kids aren’t bothered by this at all and some go to a school hoping to make their sport a big deal there. It all depends on your makeup. It is something to think about as you go through recruiting. Some kids take things more personally than others and can be sensitive to all of this. Others couldn’t give a hoot if they are a football player at a basketball school or vice versa.
The other thing to think about is that if you are playing a sport like volleyball, softball or soccer at certain schools, the media coverage may greatly favor football and men’s basketball. What usually helps there is that campus newspapers usually do a very good job of covering all sports.
If you play for a college in a major city, your sport may not get much media coverage even if it is D1 because many major cities are more into pro sports. Cities like Boston and Chicago are way more wound up over their pro teams than their college teams. A city like Albuquerque has no major pro teams so everything is focused on the University of New Mexico basketball teams and to a degree other teams at that school. They get 18,000 fans for all home games (a sell out for their stadium).
So as you go through recruiting be sure to put thought into many factors and cover all the bases, such as what a school is known for sports-wise. See if that is important to you and factor it into your list of things you want in a school as you go through this process.
Charlie Adams is a motivational speaker who believes in the athleadership message of the NCSA. His oldest son is currently a NCAA college athlete.
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