November 5, 2004

How to Be a Two-Sport School

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Basketball and hockey, it would seem, are diametrically opposed. Very rare is the case in which a school supports successful teams in both big-time winter season sports. Schools that are strong in basketball are often weak in hockey (if they have hockey teams at all).

Schools that are strong in hockey often don’t have strong basketball traditions to speak of. Sure, there are the exceptions — Michigan for example. But speaking in general terms, in the NCAA, there are hockey schools and there are basketball schools and there is no crossover. Princeton dominates the Ivy League in basketball, but is a perennial cellar dweller in the ECAC Hockey League. Cornell and Harvard are huge players on the national hockey scene but don’t have nearly that tradition on the hardwood. That’s just how it goes.

It does not have to be like that.

Cornell is famous for being the quintessential hockey school. Lynah Rink is regarded around the country as a mecca for the sport. The program enjoys a tremendously rich history and tradition, a culture of success and excellence passed down through the generations.

But at its heart, Cornell is an amazing basketball school. One need look no further than the weekend of Feb. 13 and 14 of this year for evidence of that. At Lynah Rink that weekend, the hockey team played host to Yale and Princeton — it was an important ECAC weekend for the Red, which had appeared to finally be getting its act together. Next door at Newman Arena, though, the crowd was even more raucous — after all, the men’s basketball team had just returned home to Ithaca after racing out to a 5-1 Ivy League start, which was the team’s best since the 1964-65 season. The campus was abuzz with talk of basketball. There were more people in Newman Arena than Lynah Rink that weekend.

The best part was, fans behaved as if packing Newman Arena was the rule rather than the exception.

This can and should happen every weekend this winter.

To every student who was shut out from buying hockey tickets, you might just be the lucky ones. Because, perhaps unknowingly, you have just allowed yourself the opportunity to watch plenty of Cornell basketball this season.

But if you did get hockey tickets, you’re in for the best season of all. This is because being a basketball fan and being a hockey fan are not mutually exclusive. Yes, most of the time, there are basketball schools and hockey schools. Why can’t Cornell be an exception to that rule?

In both of these sports, fan support can mean just about everything on the college level. The hockey program has already achieved the appropriate level of fan attachment and enthusiasm. There is no question that the exact same culture can and should surround the Cornell basketball team.

One of the most exciting times of the year on this campus is March Madness — the NCAA basketball tournament. Every year during the tourney, Cornell students fill out their brackets, everyone has a favorite team. But imagine if that favorite team could be Cornell. Imagine following the basketball team’s run to the NCAA tournament much the same way that this campus was transfixed by the hockey team’s magical run to the Frozen Four two years ago. Just because two seasons occur at the same time doesn’t mean that they need to cancel each other out.

Basketball and hockey home games will only directly conflict with each other one time this winter. So, here’s a challenge to all who consider themselves true supporters of the Big Red — sell out Lynah Rink and Newman Arena for every game this season. With the proper support, both of these teams will go far this year. Let’s make it impossible for them not to.

Owen Bochner is the Sun Sports Editor. He can be contacted at sportsed@cornelldailysun.com. In The O-Zone will appear every other Friday this semester.

Archived article by Owen Bochner