Allard: Do you want to be a part of Northwestern basketball history?

Emily Allard, Columnist
April 9, 2013 •

There has been plenty of well deserved buzz around the hiring of men’s basketball coach Chris Collins. His hire builds new hope around a program known for its hard-working and intelligent men. Former coach Bill Carmody took the program to new heights, and I’m excited to see how far the team will go with a new coach and a fresh start. However, while many seem to think that our lack of NCAA Tournament appearances and number of Big Ten wins is a challenge, we have a bigger issue on our hands, one that is up to us — the students — not the program to fix: filling (and protecting) this house.

In his news conference last week, Collins gained my immediate respect with these words: “I know there has been a lot of talk about what we don’t have, and what we need, and all that kind of stuff. … My goal is to make Welsh-Ryan the best home-court advantage in the Big Ten, and that’s not going to be easy. But I come from a place where if you walk into Cameron Indoor Stadium, no one goes in there and talks about how state-of-the-art it is, but you talk about the atmosphere because it’s the people that are in it and the hunger of the crowd and the excitement and that’s what we have to build.”

Talk about perspective. Who cares what we don’t have? Who cares that our facilities are sub-par in comparison to other Big Ten schools whose alumni bases and populations triple ours? We have blessings surrounding this campus that other schools could never duplicate. We have a family culture within our university that trumps anything our rivals could ever strive for. Facilities can be built, erected, funded. But you can’t fund belief. You can’t erect momentum. You can’t build passion. These things come from the heart.

If you’ve ever been to a men’s basketball game before, particularly an upset, I guarantee you that not once while cheering did you stop to think, “Man, I really wish I was sitting in a nicer seat.” You’re close enough to the court to high-five Reggie after an And-1 attempt. You can feel your presence make a difference. You can hear your voice be heard. You personally can help change the momentum of the game, sometimes even just by showing up. When all those things happen, everything materialistic suddenly becomes an after thought. When you have pride in your school, suddenly even the biggest obstacle becomes your biggest opportunity.

Many schools across the Big Ten are established in athletics. They’ve had success, built their reputations and established their traditions. We have a unique opportunity to create our tradition, to decide for ourselves what we want our reputation to be and turn that into a lasting legacy. We envy what others have because we have not yet achieved it. But just like any other challenge, we have the opportunity and the ability to make a difference. The best part? It starts with one simple step: Show up and be loud. Coach Collins may want a home-court advantage, but that’s our job, not his.

We all came to Northwestern for different reasons — and let’s be honest, most of those were academic. We want to change the world, to influence lives, to make a difference. We may not be able to have a global impact at the moment, but we can change Northwestern. At college campuses across the country, nothing fosters community more than athletics; look at Florida Gulf Coast and Wichita State in their March Madness runs. We’ve seen the publicity our school has received because of a hire, and we haven’t even won any games yet! We even got a taste of it after the Gator Bowl win, when a simple pre-game video gave you the chills as Demetrius Fields yelled out, “We play for Northwestern!”

We are headed in the right direction. We are climbing the mountain, and there is no stopping now. The question is: Do you want to be a part of it? If we want better, newer and bigger facilities, we first have to fill the ones we have. For goodness sake, we are the only Big Ten student body that gets into our games for free.

Emily Allard is a Communication senior and varsity student-athlete. She can be reached at emilyallard2013@u.northwestern.edu. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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