Division I hockey has definitely changed the landscape of RIT athletics. The Tigers have put themselves in position to secure a second straight Atlantic Hockey Association championship, and wow, fans have really responded! On game night, Ritter Arena is practically bursting at the seams.
Meanwhile, in adjacent Clark Gym, RIT’s Division III men’s and women’s basketball teams have been waiting to share the love. As the old saying goes, fans are coming to these games disguised as empty bleachers. That’s particularly unfortunate since both basketball teams are enjoying competitive seasons, but hockey continues to receive most of the glory.
Enter President Bill Destler to the rescue. Disappointed by the consistently poor attendance, he challenged RIT student to fill the gym for last Saturday’s basketball games versus Ithaca. In return, President Destler would dye his hair Tiger orange. Prospects of witnessing his extreme makeover really caught the fancy of the campus community. I was surprised to hear students in my PR class discussing it, and even the Democrat and Chronicle and the local broadcast media trumpeted news of this friendly showdown.
So who prevailed? Well, pretty much everybody. Despite a less-than-capacity crowd for the first game, President Destler followed through on his hair appointment. Everyone enjoyed the moment, and even though they ended up on the short side of the scoreboard, RIT’s basketball teams finally received a share of the spotlight.
Sometimes, in order to move a cause forward, you have to publicly acknowledge your shortcomings. Tiger Pride is strong, but President Destler correctly identified an opportunity for improvement. Support of our athletes, all of our athletes, is a great way to enhance overall spirit. Certainly a lot of people—both on campus and in the local community—now know that RIT is serious about building spirit. It’s a story we’ve been “dying” to tell.