Guest Column: It’s time spent, not games played

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April 18, 2013

11:49 PM

I’m all for a winning record, a four-star recruit and a high-profile coach, but as a college student here for only four quick years, I am here, more than anything else, for a good time. That means a memorable time, even if those memories are not always fully formed.

I’ll go to the football game for five minutes — then I’ll go back to the tailgate, have another beer, and toast to the Tribe.

It is hard, I know, to criticize one of the largest donations ever given to the College of William and Mary.

But The Flat Hat’s editorial board fails to see the whole picture. The criticism of the apportionment of Zable’s gift is not well thought out. A brand new stadium attracts recruits. We need a facilities upgrade if we are to compete both regionally in Hampton Roads and nationally in the football subdivision. In the Hampton Roads recruiting arena, a new stadium represents a competitive edge in gaining recruits over Hampton University, Richmond University and other Colonial Athletic Association opponents, an edge that will move the College up nationally in subdivision rankings. These upgrades are undoubtedly necessary. Zable Stadium is overdue for repair.

A recent Flat Hat article reported a proposed 3,000 seat addition to the stadium, comprised of mostly club level seating. This is no Band-Aid. It’s a complete makeover. The College also needs a couple more thousand seats if we are ever to make the sacred move to the Bowl Division and maybe win a trip to the Chick Fil-A or Continental Tire Bowl. With Zable’s legacy, that is currently a more realistic move, one that Old Dominion University recently announced in the fall. Maybe Zable is thinking ahead. More seating will allow more alumni to come back to campus for home games, alumni that have the resources to pay for luxury suites, and hence the capacity to support the program as well.

A vibrant tailgating scene also attracts recruits. When coming to visit next fall, a recruit will drive down Ukrop Way before the game and see me and hundreds of other students hanging out in the Reserve. These are all incentives for stepping on the field for the College.

The tailgating, not the game itself, is the most important part. The problem is not student apathy toward the football team. It is a lack of student participation in game day activities. And that does not necessarily include going to the game. It certainly involves going to the Reserve, though. The Reserve may not add wins to Laycock’s resume, but who’s counting? Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m down to see the Tribe roll just as much as anyone else in the King’s Town (Williamsburg). But I am more enthusiastic about people enjoying their sweet time here at the College. Tailgates don’t score touchdowns, but they do bring the smell of fried chicken to campus on early Saturday mornings. Welcome to the Reserve: where student apathy stands no chance to ice cold beer. If the football team follows its recent tradition of losing, good. More people will stay at the tailgate grounds. The party will be bigger and rowdier than ever.

The College should not be a place to road trip away from; it should be a place to road trip to. We’re almost there. The Reserve adds an invaluable part of student life missing from recent memory. And an awesome, exciting, quintessential campus life is what attracts the College’s most desired recruits: the nation’s best and brightest, the ones that put the hard work in, week in and week out, within the ropes, tailgating.

It may end up having kinks, but now is not the time to criticize. It is the time to congratulate, celebrate and look forward to the first kickoff next fall.

Email Neal Friedman at [email protected]

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  • Neal Friedman