For all that Fairfield has to offer, one area in which we severely lack is traditional school spirit. At many athletic events throughout the year, you’ll often find empty stands—with the few fans present usually consisting of family and friends of the players—despite Fairfield’s often strong Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings across many of our sports. This was clear to me when I first arrived as a first-year in 2019. What I expected after visits to other schools throughout my life was a stark contrast to what I encountered, and when the pandemic hit in 2020, later that academic year, school spirit became the least of our concerns.
Since the newly built Leo D. Mahoney Arena opened this year, there have been moments where the student body has come together in ways that completely contradict what is expected of us as a school community. During the women’s and men’s basketball home openers, students, as well as members of the local community, packed the arena in a way that was previously a rare sight. In a men’s basketball game against Iona University, many students wore t-shirts with a quote from then-Iona head coach Rick Pitino that read, “The MAAC just doesn’t draw a crowd.” However, once the excitement for our new arena began to wear off, the familiar sight of empty bleachers returned shortly after.
There have been clear efforts from the University to increase attendance at games across the board. The “Super Stags” app has incentivized students to attend games for years. Such incentives include prizes for acquiring specific points, like t-shirts and water bottles. Since the opening of the new arena, there have been additional incentives, including free meals and alcohol vouchers for students who arrive before tip-off. While this has been somewhat effective in attracting students, for the most part, it has been unsuccessful.
I do not see this culture changing anytime soon. I have been a student at this institution for four years and witnessed the ups and downs. Fairfield does not have a culture of school spirit, and it is apparent that the University wants this to change. The lack of school spirit is not limited to athletics. Across the institution, you’ll often find a similar situation at many club and university events. While not wholly empty, attendance is usually limited—save for the significant events throughout the school year, such as the Presidential Ball and the Spring Concert.
Despite this, I do believe that Fairfield students care about the institution and its athletics. The fact that students do come together for the big games and events during the year proves this. If anything, the consistent sight of empty bleachers and quiet stands makes the moments with a packed arena feel unique and memorable. However, I believe that this is the best school spirit you’ll see from Fairfield University as an institution unless there is a massive culture shift. Perhaps with new incoming classes over the next few years, we will start to see a change—but for now, the familiar sight of empty bleachers is here to stay.