Column: Athletic Department, students need to take a lesson

It's a shame the decision-makers of the Ball State athletic department didn't attend the Ball State-Ohio game Saturday in Athens, Ohio.

Had they attended, they could have taken notes about how to involve the student body.

In my three years of covering Ball State basketball, I've been to every hall, arena, fieldhouse and center in the Mid-American Conference -- except Buffalo. But who wants to go there anyway?

By far, the best student participation and enthusiasm was what I witnessed at Ohio University. The band wasn't too shabby either.

The "O-Zone," which is what Ohio students refer to themselves as, was closer to the court than a MAC officiating crew has been to a decent game.

That may not be a good analogy, but what I'm trying to say is they were right on top of the court.

Even press row was behind the student section -- elevated, but still behind.

Not as elevated, however, as the Ball State students who have to sit 30 rows up or higher at home games. They can't even see the pretty smiles on the faces of the Code Red dancers.

Instead of spreading the student body vertically, spread them the length of the court. Make Worthen Arena loud. Make it intimidating. More so than anything else, make it fun.

In order to do that, Ball State must borrow some ideas from Ohio.-á Encourage students to get involved. Give everyone a "game day" T-shirt, throw souvenirs in the crowd after dunks or three-pointers, don't take away homemade signs, and let Code Red wander into the crowd.

Actually, I take that back. Keep Code Red in front of the press row.

The early-season success which drew many new fans has started to fade. Student attendance is beginning to follow.

Instead of allowing the dropoff to continue, the athletic department needs to wake up and retain and improve Ball State's home-court advantage.