Roll Pants: Exploring school spirit at Middlebury

By BLAISE SIEFER and CAPTAIN RUDOLPH

BENJY RENTON
The Oct. 12 football match against Colby saw the second-highest attendance in the past six years at 3,333.

It’s fourth and goal and the crowd rises to its feet. The student section screams so loud the opposing players can’t even hear the play call. The center snaps the ball, and the quarterback rolls out to his right. He throws! The pass is dropped! The football team wins the title! Hundreds of fans rush the field, jumping up and down with excitement for a win they’ll never forget. 

Does it sound like Middlebury? Not quite. 

At Middlebury, we are pretty fortunate to have some of the top D-3 sports teams in the business. Last year, Middlebury won six NESCAC championships in total, the most out of any school in the conference. Additionally, field hockey and women’s lacrosse both won national championships and women’s soccer finished as national finalists. 

Our athletic conquests continued this year; football recorded a 9–0 season and was the first team to ever do so in NESCAC history. Three other teams competed in the NESCAC championship game this past weekend (men’s soccer, women’s soccer, and field hockey). 

But these reporters were curious: Does the school spirit at Middlebury match its  distinguished athletic profile? To probe the question, we first explored what school spirit means to Middlebury students.

“School spirit means being proud of going to Middlebury,” Jess Cohen ’21 said. Meanwhile, Kelsey Brown ’23 said school spirit entails “a bunch of people getting together, supporting the sports teams, wearing their school colors, and making chants.” 

Of course, school spirit isn’t confined to just spectating sporting events; it would be irrational to say that students who don’t attend sports games don’t have school spirit. However, attending sporting events is definitely a facet of school spirit that some students feel has room for improvement. Georgia Ezell ’23 feels a similar way. “I’d like to be at a school with a little more team camaraderie and sense of self,” Georgia Ezell ’23 said. “But maybe that’s my own fault.” 

Take Middlebury field hockey, for example. This past Sunday, the team won their third straight NESCAC title, good for their sixth in the past eight years. They will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA D-3 tournament, entering the competition as defending champions. For a squad of such a high caliber, it’s worrisome to think that the average attendance was less than 100 fans per game this season. Keep in mind, attendance includes parents of both teams and local fans that don’t go to Middlebury. 

According to S.K. Hurlock ’23, “mostly close friends and parents/family of girls on the team” make up the fan base. Middlebury hosted the NESCAC championships for field hockey this weekend, but still saw relatively meager attendance. At the team’s semi-final matchup against Hamilton on Saturday, only 108 fans attended. 

It’s important to note that we are not saying that there are no fans at Middlebury; in fact, there have been times where student support has been incredible. For instance, attendance to the Oct. 12 football matchup vs. Colby (3,333) was the second-highest the football team had in the past six years. Rather, we are arguing that we could use improvement. So how might we accomplish this? 

The first idea most people bring up is tailgating. Why don’t we have it at Middlebury? It is allowed, but in 2014, Director of Athletics Erin Quinn officially banned alcoholic beverages at tailgates. According to the NESCAC’s sportsmanship statement, “It is incumbent upon NESCAC host institutions to provide a hospitable environment for contests to be played with an emphasis on fair play and an absolute ban on the consumption of alcoholic beverages by spectators.” 

Quinn noted this policy — in conjunction with previous incidents at football games caused by excessive alcohol consumption — in his decision to ban alcohol at tailgates in 2014. So yes, tailgating is still allowed, contrary to popular belief. 

There also have been efforts within the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC)  of establishing a point system respective to attending athletic games, through an app called “SuperFan.” The premise of the app is simple: when you attend games, you log your attendance and gain points. In return, students can use these points to purchase Middlebury swag. This SAAC has brought to the administrations attention, but further action has yet to take place.

Masa Mori ’22 believes that, if there’s a devoted student section “attending games would be much more fun.” If a few students are willing to take charge, they could raise awareness through social media posts, along with an announcement in the newspaper and fliers all around campus. 

Besides school spirit, when we think of college sports, traditions cross our mind. Knowing that we’ve only been at Midd for a couple of months, we asked some upperclassmen about the presence of traditions in athletics.

“There are none, literally none,” Emily Kohutnicki ’20 said, when asked about sports traditions at Middlebury.

Obviously, this was concerning knowing that she’s been here for nearly four years. You would expect that at some point in Middlebury’s 229 year history, some kind of annual sporting ritual would arise, but that’s not the case. So, what can be done? As we near the winter season, why not start up some new traditions? Maybe a blue-out at the first basketball game? A pajama psych at one of our hockey games? The possibilities are endless. 

Again, we know there is definitely school spirit at Middlebury — that’s not our point. Rather, we believe that as a student body, we can do even better. Our athletes work incredibly hard to perform at a high level, and the least we can do is give our maximum effort as it comes to support. So get off your butt, take a study break, quit watching Netflix, and cheer our athletes on. Trust us, the library is not going anywhere and you can certainly get back to the books after your short break to show some Midd spirit! 

Hopefully, we’ll see you at the next game.

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