Wednesday night the Hawkeye men's basketball team "hosted" border rival Illinois. And while Iowa was listed as the home team, this had the feel of a game played on a neutral court with the Illini fans having a shorter drive than those in black and gold.
Traffic to Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City was more difficult than other nights of the 2009-10 season. Fans with foreign license plates not knowing where to go and park slowed the Hawkeye faithful and buses were many with names of Illinois towns painted on the side.
Once inside this basketball venue there was a sense of electricity that has been missing. You could say the "joint was jumpin'" although it was till far from the sell out crowds people of my generation were used to. However this buzz was fueled by those wearing the orange and blue of Illinois.
Those buses from Illinois hauled over 150 students from the Champaign-Urbana campus, and at tip-off were located directly behind the basket nearest the Iowa bench. And while the numbers were fewer (but not my much) of the home student section, the Illini students were definitely more vocal and original with their cheers. Carver Hawkeye Areana had a feel of the Illini's Assembly Hall.
But what was most disappointing was the number of non-student Illinois fans that found their way to some of the best seats in the Arena...those in the highly-donated and faculty / staff seats. Many pockets of fans wearing orange were found in the middle section.
While some of these fans may have been correctly in their seats, finding tickets through friends, colleagues or ticket selling web sites, I also witnessed Illinois fans moving to these premiere seats as Iowa fans failed to show.
This could be an appropriate time to fire up the argument of start times or the success of the basketball team, but there comes a time when Iowa fans need to take pride in their school, team and players by showing up. The team cannot select their schedule and start times. It is unfortunate there is only one more weekend home game as well as starting one game earlier than 7:30, but that is what this team was given them. They can not change it.
This team aside from one game has been improving the last eight games. They continue to battle and fight for forty minutes although it has been inevitable since Christmas they would not make post-season play. But Iowa fans need support this team by showing up and not giving away or selling their tickets to the opposing fan base.
The remaining games are not against a neighboring fan base so a duplicate of Wednesday night should not occur, but those fans who gave away their tickets to Illinois fans need to show up and give back to a team that hasn't quit.