Volume 92, Issue 72

Thursday, February 4, 1999


Bronzed Mustangs back from games

Mustang men shrink in Western's cold water

Excitement left behind in Thames

The World University Games are singing a different tune

Western rewind

Sports shorts

Excitement left behind in Thames

A sold out crowd packs into the bleachers at Thames Hall awaiting another high energy affair between the Mustangs and some out-of-town challenger. The fans cheer on the team as they take the court for the opening tip-off. They scream foul when a Mustang is violated and do everything possible to distract the opponents from concentrating at the free throw line.

This is what Mustang basketball is suppose to be all about. Unfortunately, you sure as hell won't be seeing this sight again any time soon. The Mustangs are moving back to the cavernous Alumni Hall on Saturday for the rest of the season, leaving behind the character and energy of the hard-court in Thames.

The accidental experiment in Thames was the result of protests a month ago from men's basketball head coach Craig Boydell and women's basketball head coach Bob Delaney. The coaches weren't pleased with the slippery floors and broken score-clock at Alumni Hall. The over-waxed floor was a safety concern and the 40-year-old replacement clock's location made it hard for players and coaches to see during the game.

However, it was clear from the beginning the move to another campus venue was only temporary.

What happened at Thames could be considered a godsend to Canadian varsity hoops. The talent and quality had always been on the court but Thames Hall provided the right atmosphere to complement it. Like that crazy experiment I conducted as a kid, putting my chocolate bar in the Skippy peanut butter – the result was a tasty treat.

The smaller capacity brought fans together and increased the energy in the stands. For once, fans weren't lost in the sea of orange chairs in Alumni Hall.

The close confines and old-style structure of the building brought volume to the event. The players yelling, the speaker system barking and the fans chanting on every play raised the intensity needle to the next level. In Alumni Hall, you could go to a game and catch a nap. In Thames, you felt the adrenaline pumping through your veins.

The layout of the bleachers is another asset. Fans had the opportunity for the first time to sit down at court level, inches away from the action. Some even had the opportunity to sit right behind the basket and take the game into their own hands. Waving shirts, towels and whatever else they happened to bring along – the fans redefined the term "home court advantage" by distracting the opposing players during free throws.

This is the type of excitement American varsity schools have created for decades. With energy in the stands comes higher energy on the court. Any athlete can tell you that screaming fans supporting their cause gets the blood pumping a little faster. The results speak for themselves. Western fans have been treated to a hard fought battle with McMaster, the top team in the country on the men's side and two blowouts by the women over Waterloo and Mac.

Alas, the hard-court was fixed and a new score clock has been brought in. So, the big wigs in athletic administration have made the fatal call to return to Alumni. It's too bad they can't see a perfect opportunity to give Mustang basketball the jolt it needs.

Ian Ross can be reached at gazette.sports@julian.uwo.ca

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Copyright The Gazette 1999