By Andrew Mishler
Andrew Mishler writes Glass Half Something for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the paper or The Daily.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Assembly Hall was the place to be if you were an Indiana University fan Sunday night.
From tipoff to the final buzzer during Indiana’s 101-53 win over Ball State, the entire crowd of people was on their feet, loudly cheering.
Before the game, the video board hanging above the court showed an inspirational message from Indiana coach Tom Crean, who explained exactly what he thought it meant to be an IU fan.
From the courtside seats to the nosebleed section, crimson and cream-colored Indiana gear painted the arena of 17,126 announced fans.
It wasn’t just a bunch of fans in the stands and a team on the court. It was a family.
And even if only half as good, it’s an atmosphere Ball State basketball fans should crave to have inside Worthen Arena.
“It’s always good to have fans like that,” senior guard Jauwan Scaife said. “It brings in a good atmosphere ... once you sit down and you stop and look around and see all those people coming out and supporting — that’s good to have for a team like Indiana.”
Indiana didn’t just show up Ball State’s basketball team on Sunday.
It showed up the entire culture of Ball State athletics.
Fans care about their team in Bloomington. And judging by Indiana’s streak of ranking top-15 nationally in attendance since Assembly Hall opened in 1972, that’s not just because the team is No. 1 in the nation.
Right now, Ball State is still searching for a relationship with fans even somewhat close to resembling the one Indiana has.
Part of that comes from history and tradition, which Indiana has always had. But part of it also comes from slowly building the best entertainment in town.
Even though Ball State’s football team made strides toward proving that this year at Scheumann Stadium, first-year athletic director Bill Scholl admitted two weeks ago that the athletic department still has a long way to go.
“I feel like we have a very loyal core of fans in both football and basketball, but I feel like we haven’t created our football and basketball games as the places to be, and a culture of, ‘You don’t want to miss the games,’” Scholl said. “We need to build a fan base that goes beyond the core that currently exists.”
Scholl is already working toward that, saying he wants to install a permanent video board inside Worthen Arena at some point, as well as incorporate new promotions made during the football season into basketball games.
The Ball State men’s basketball team is on the right track as well in terms of its on-court performance. Even though they’re young and inexperienced, they’ve exceeded most early expectations.
Junior college transfer forward Majok Majok is already the best player on the team. He showcased a variety of post moves to get the better of Cody Zeller, regarded as one of the best players in the country, several times.
Freshman point guard Marcus Posley continues to show dynamic skills on offense when he has the chance to make a play.
A 48-point loss to the best team in the country doesn’t take away those positive strides the team has made and the strides Scholl is creating to make games a more enjoyable experience for fans.
So far, they’re doing their job toward making Ball State games something worth seeing.
It’s up to the fans to help as well.
So if you watched the game inside Assembly Hall on Sunday, take some tips from how Indiana brings so much energy from its crowd, and be a leader in bringing them to Ball State.
Start some chants inside the student section. Get your friends to come along with you to games. Use social media to tell other people what they’re missing out on.
It may seem unlikely, but one person can make a bigger change than you think.
Until then, the atmosphere inside Worthen Arena will remain the same as it always has – boring, uneventful and lifeless.
You’re paying money out of your tuition to attend Ball State athletic events. You might as well try to make it a fun experience in the process.