Milwaukee doesn’t have a hospitable winter climate, and the arena was a mile far from our dorm. Didn’t matter. The particular team was just above. 500. Didn’t matter. Games were often on weeknights, with tests plus papers due the next day. Didn’t issue. We painted our faces, donned our gold (under multiple levels of fleece and thermals), plus made the trip – generally on foot, even though there were shuttles available – yelling the whole way. Men’s basketball was a unifying factor upon campus, part of the reason I picked my school , and the source of several of my fondest undergrad memories.
I had been very active within my high school, and while I didn’t perform varsity basketball, I went to each game. We all did – which was the culture in our corner of Indiana. Everybody went to every sport (and every play and every convocation) – there was an expectation that people would be engaged, and we learned that whenever we were, we would get more from the encounter and we’d just have more fun. It’s not surprising that when I was looking for a university I wanted a school that would also provide that spirit. I found it on Marquette. There’s something about that shared experience of cheering on your college sports activities team that brings people collectively like nothing else. We were all proud of our school and of going presently there, and that pride and identification proceeded to go far beyond anything the men’s basketball team was doing in the court (thankfully, because the years I used to be there were pretty lean), but the outward manifestation provided by MU’s sports tradition, specifically around basketball, reinforced our shared experience.
Conversations at breakfast about lineups plus our chances of winning that night’s game; professors mentioning the forthcoming game in opening remarks on a lecture; examples from basketball coming up in physics and sociology classes – it all built towards a hallmark feature of campus tradition: school spirit. And I would believe it didn’t end at basketball. There were reservoirs of shared habits and expectations of participation that might be tapped for other endeavors, like Hunger Cleanup, the student run outreach program to assist in craving for food and homelessness issues in Milwaukee, or Habitat for Humanity. Might Marquette have developed into the kind of a location that got ranked in the top ten most “Activist Campuses” without men’s hoops? Impossible to know, of course. Yet men’s hoops gave us all a location to attach our pride in our school and to wear it, literally and figuratively, on our sleeves.
Current trips to campus to visit our nephew, a 2013 alumnus, have convinced me it’s as real as ever now. Just perform a quick web search for “Vander Azure Winning Shot Davidson” and watch the particular students’ reactions – or those of nearly any school in the tourney (or from any other sport) as students watch their team take out a thrilling win. They are invested.
If your college search contains some schools with a sports custom, around any sport, try to go to a game to see if that experience is exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll get real insight into the culture of the college, plus you’re likely to have a great time. And bring on March Madness! Marquette isn’t in it this year. Doesn’t matter. I’ll be engaged. That’s a training from the campus culture I was raised in – it’s just too fun not to be.
Sam Brennan is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts . Prior to joining University Coach, Steve was a senior admissions officer at Occidental College, Marquette University, Loyola University Chicago, plus Regis University (CO).