Athletic department hopes to boost student attendance with promotions

Eric Smith

When the average Washburn fan goes to a basketball game, they are probably going to see Washburn’s student athletes in action on the court. However, little do they know they are about to be treated by many other forms of entertainment and promotions only seen in Lee Arena.

Summer Harris is the marketing/ticket director for the Washburn Athletics department. An alumnus of Washburn University, Harris has held her current position for four years. And in the current basketball season, the Athletic Departments has come up with several new events to keep the audience entertained.

The “Great Clips Lucky Student Drawing” occurs at halftime of each home game, when a student’s name is called. If that student is in attendance, he or she wins money. If the student called is not in attendance, the money is added to a pot. It began as $25 a game for each men and women’s game. It currently sits at $525, and if no one who is called is in attendance for the next three home games, $700 will be given away at the final home game of the year Feb. 25 to a student in attendance.

“I would say people have been most excited about the cash giveaway just because all you have to do is show-up,” said Harris. “You don’t even have to get out to the court to embarrass yourself. You don’t have to sign up, you just show up and that is something that we will give away. I’ve heard feedback from non-students that said it’s a great way to get students there.”

Another new item of entertainment is the interactive animated games that are played on the video board during halftime. One is the “NASCAR game” during which fans pick a racecar and hope it is the winning one. It’s very similar to the “Hot Dog Race” seen at Kansas City Royals games, except with racecars. The “Hat Shuffle” is also a new video game for the audience in which fans try to follow the ball as it is shuffled throughout three hats.

“Before, we’ve had the video board but we haven’t had access to do anything animated,” said Harris. “So it’s been working really well. That’s been kind of a crowd pleaser as well.”

While there have been a lot of new promotions this season, some traditional ones continue to please. The “Bug Off Car Wash ‘Dirtiest Car In the Lot'” gives an audience member who has the dirtiest car free car washes for a month if announced during the men’s game.

Another is the “B.J. McGivern 3-Point T-Shirts” where every time an Ichabod or Lady Blue hits a 3-pointer, a 3-point T-shirt will be thrown into the crowd.

There are truly many reasons to attend the basketball games at Lee Arena. There is something for everyone.

“I would say the first reason that students should come to the games is because it’s free,” said Harris. “Second reason is because there is lots of free stuff given away. Third reason is because Washburn is the right size where you can connect. You can have a basketball player in one of your classes. And in that way you can cheer for someone you know. Fourth reason is its great entertainment value.”

Kyle Edelman, a junior at Washburn, said he enjoys coming to the games just because he likes watching basketball, and it is a place where he can see friends.

“It’s a good way to get involved in campus life,” said Edelman, who is double majoring in history and political science. “It’s a good way to stay up with school because I don’t have time to get involved with many clubs.”

Edelman also said he benefited from the Washburn promotions by making it to games this season.

“I caught one of the 3-point shirts in the student section, but my roommate stole it before I was actually able to see it,” said Edelman, who has been to about five games this season.

Julian Jenkins, freshman, enjoys basketball as well but hasn’t been able to make any games partly because of work and partly because he is not up to date on when the games always are.

“All basketball is OK with me. If I had more time, I would definitely come out,” said Jenkins. “If there was more advertising and information about them around campus, that would help a lot too.”

While Harris recognizes the student attendance at games has been low this season, she is optimistic for the final four home games.

“Basketball starts up in November,” she said. “Students are focusing on finals and papers are due. And then there is such a long break. We have so many games during that break. But now that school is back in session, I’m expecting the last four [home] games to be really attended by the students.”

Harris has been working with the Bod Squad and is happy to say that they will be present at the rest of this season’s home games giving away rally towels and T-shirts.

Other entertainment that has hit the court this season and that fans can look forward to seeing in the future include Washburn’s Dancing Blues, Jacob Deffenbaugh (better known as “The Yo-Yo Guy,”) Belinda Post (the baton twirler) and many adolescent dance teams from around Topeka. Washburn’s band is almost always in attendance as well.

“The band adds so much to the atmosphere,” said Harris. “The coaches love them. The fans love them. They just have a huge impact on the game. They get a little rowdy, in a good way. And we love everything they do. We encourage them for sure. They’re so faithful. I think they’ve only missed one game this year.”

Harris says that many organizations are honored at halftime, whether it is faculty from a Washburn department or a restaurant such as Texas Roadhouse.

“We do our listed programs and then we do also have specialty nights,” said Harris. “We kind of want to do some things the same that are consistent that people know about but do some different things as well so people don’t know what to expect and don’t know what’s coming up next.”

One of these specialty events is “Think Pink Night” on Feb. 19 for the women’s game starting at 5:30 p.m. Harris said there will be a pink-out for breast cancer awareness. The halftime of the men’s game will also feature promotions with the Southwind Apartments (College Hill Apartments) where they will give away prizes such as a TV.

While Harris and the Athletic Department have done a lot to get people to games, they’re always looking for new ideas to get students fired up.

“I’d like to know maybe what we’re not doing that students would like to see to get students to games,” said Harris.