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Come out to Clark Gym for the Destler Challenge on Sunday Sports

On Sunday, the RIT women’s and men’s basketball teams (women’s game – 12 p.m., men’s game – 2 p.m.) host Ithaca in what appear to be a pair of early, but important Empire 8 conference games. However, President Destler has issued a challenge to the student body to fill the gym to complete and full capacity. If that happens, he will let Dr. Mary Beth Cooper, vice president of student affairs, dye his hair orange at halftime of the men’s game. Here are the complete details.

Last year, when he issued the challenge to the student body, I was somewhat skeptical. I had seen several basketball games at RIT, and the closest the gym had ever come to full capacity was the championship game of the 2005 J.P. Morgan Chase Scholarship Tournament. That game drew just over 1,000 fans (the gym seats 2,000). Normally, a RIT men’s home hoops game gets around 200-300 fans when in session, women, anywhere from 100-150. So, my skepticism was warranted when the challenge came out last year.

Fast forward to the day of the games against Ithaca, Jan. 19, 2008. I remember running back and forth between my office, Clark Gym and pressbox of Ritter Arena (we had a home hockey game later that evening as well). I put a Tiger Den T-shirt on over my shirt and tie during the women’s game, which drew a nice crowd, but nowhere near full capacity. As the women’s game was winding down, the crowd began to filter in for the men’s contest, which was to start about 30 minutes after.

I ran back upstairs for the start of the men’s game and to my surprise and delight, the stands were nearly full. In addition, it was a virtual sea of orange, with the crowd cheering and jeering loudly and passionately. I was proud to be a part of RIT and see the student-athletes so involved, because other than men’s hockey, the student support for the rest of the sports is non-existent. You can go to a St. John Fisher basketball game on a weekend and see their arena filled on a regular basis (they also only have 2,500 undergraduates to our 16,500). You can say the same for the University of Rochester as well. Why does our student support suffer? These are your peers and they should be supported.

That evening, we did not fill the gym to full capacity, but came close. President Destler decided he would dye half of his hair orange, which was a solid compromise.

This year, we don’t want compromise. We want the whole thing. In addition, Ithaca is ranked 12th nationally and may come in undefeated. The Tigers are on a major roll, having won four straight and are 5-0 in Empire 8 play after a blowout win over St. John Fisher. What better way to spend your Sunday afternoon, seeing your president dye his hair orange for his school and the possibility of your basketball team knocking off an undefeated, nationally-ranked team? Come on out to be a part of history.


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