Year in and year out basketball analysts and sportswriters around the country create lists of college basketball’s toughest places to play or most historic venues. Each time these are published there are always some familiar faces near the top: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Phog Allen Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, The Palestra, and Indiana’s own Assembly Hall.
Throughout the Big Ten, and the nation for that matter, Assembly Hall has established a reputation as deafening, intimidating, and downright crazy. Keith Appling, Michigan State Point Guard said, “Indiana is the toughest arena to play in. It’s so loud.” The Gazette, an Iowa newspaper, asked one player from each Big Ten team, “Where is the toughest place to play?” Not surprisingly, nine of the twelve players selected chose Indiana. It’s easy to see the reputation Assembly Hall has established, but unfortunately, the atmosphere can often be, well, underwhelming.
Now allow me to explain my last sentence before I get completely blasted. I have been attending Indiana basketball games and IU sporting events in general since I was a small child. I knew all about the proud tradition surrounding the program from Martha the Mop Lady to the famous candy stripe pants. Growing up I idolized AJ Guyton and Tom Coverdale and the environment they played in. Naturally, the first thing I did when I enrolled for classes was purchase season basketball tickets. I was there when IU upset Kentucky and Assembly Hall on that day was, simply put, insane. There was an energy about the crowd that I had never felt before. It was back for the Michigan State game later that year and the Michigan game last season.
On those days Assembly Hall is rightfully dubbed one of the best atmospheres in all of sports, but on the days when the opponent is not a powerhouse the environment leaves something to be desired. For example, last season security was forced to turn people away from Hoosier Hysteria because every single seat was full. This year the scene was disheartening. Not only was the balcony empty, but there was room left in the main section as well. At the time I remember thinking it was no big deal and the atmosphere would improve as the season went along. I was mistaken. There have been six home games (including the exhibition) so far this season and at each one the crowd has been underwhelming. The game against Stony Brook is excused due to severe weather, but for the other five games where has the crowd been? I realize the opponents to date have been largely lackluster, but that does not excuse the poor attendance and lack of energy.
So this is my call to arms. I’m challenging IU students to bring all the energy they can to every game, not just the big ones. Put your phone away for two hours and enjoy the company you’re in. I promise you’ll still be able to tweet about or Instagram your view of the game after the final buzzer sounds. Be loud, be creative, but most importantly make people scared to play in Assembly Hall.