Editorial: Athletics must grow with PSU

Last Saturday, thousands of students and fans poured into PGE Park to cheer on their team in one of the year’s most anticipated games. They arrived with painted faces, wearing their team colors, full of school spirit and alcohol.

Last Saturday, thousands of students and fans poured into PGE Park to cheer on their team in one of the year’s most anticipated games.

They arrived with painted faces, wearing their team colors, full of school spirit and alcohol.

But these were not fans that had arrived to cheer on Jerry Glanville’s Portland State team as they struggled in a 27-12 defeat and secured their second consecutive losing season.

The thousands of fans–the majority of the 12,071 that attended–were there to cheer on the Montana Grizzlies, the Vikings’ opponent.

Some had driven the 548 miles that span between Missoula and PGE Park, while other Montana diehards live in the Portland area. Regardless, they came.

They were loud and obnoxious but their prideful cheers overwhelmed the typically lethargic Vikings fans and distracted the Portland State players on the field.

You can chalk it up as another disappointment in the long line of letdowns in this university’s history of subpar school spirit.

As Portland State continues to develop and move prominently toward becoming a national leader in the important areas of sustainability, urban growth and research, students, faculty and alumni need to take a closer look at athletics as well.

This university can continue to improve and grow. New buildings can be constructed and old ones updated. Enrollment can increase and research can continue to be a focus. All this can happen without a successful athletic program.

But what might continue to go missing here on campus, even with new buildings and national recognition, is the school loyalty and pride that was evident at Saturday’s game, if only from the other team’s fans.

Students develop loyalties to their university based on their ability to have positive and memorable experiences.

Some find their niche in student groups, clubs or fraternities. Others find a network of friends in their residence halls or within their academic discipline.

At other universities, even urban commuter schools like this one, many students get their university bearings by rooting on their respected teams.

And students here, like it or not, will soon deal with the reality that Portland State athletics is not going away.

The hiring of athletic director Torre Chisholm was a key indicator of this university’s support.

Chisholm and his staff have made facility upgrades, poured money into advertising and captivated the attention of the campus–if only for a few moments–when they hired Glanville and the men’s basketball squad played in the NCAA Tournament for the first time last year.

But their greatest work in developing athletics on this campus is likely forthcoming.

In the next few years the face of athletics at this university could drastically change. In terms of personnel, teams are improving–coaches and athletes here now are more talented than ever before.

Proof of that can be found in the three conference championships won last year and the likeliness that more could come this academic year. Facilities will likely change as well.

PGE Park seems headed for a renovation that will make the stadium into a more traditional football and soccer facility while maintaining its current status as one of the only urban stadiums on the West Coast. Upon the completion of the new recreation facility, the Stott Center could also undergo a massive face-lift.

The result could be two pristine facilities for the Portland State community to either enjoy or ignore.

But if Saturday’s game was any clue, it will be rival fans that will enjoy the new accommodations the most.

The growth of the university in other areas means growth for athletics as well. Are Portland State athletics doomed to become the stepchild on campus? If attendance and support are indicators, it seems we are headed that way.

Just 11 weeks ago, Wim Wievel announced to the football team during a visit to practice that he was in full support and declared that you cannot have a serious university in this country without taking football and athletics seriously.

For the most part that is true. Athletics provide opportunities for universities to gain exposure, which usually leads to greater recognition and added revenue from merchandise sales.

Stellar athletics typically place schools that are on the verge of blossoming over the top because successful teams give a university just another thing to hang its hat on.

As Portland State moves forward in establishing itself locally and nationally, students should consider the benefits of supporting athletics.