Our phones are ringing incessantly at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center. Aztec alumni are making their Poinsettia Bowl plans and looking for information and tickets to the game and accompanying events. That’s no surprise after a 12-year bowl drought.
What’s more extraordinary is the interest we’re also seeing in Aztec basketball. The undefeated and 14 th-ranked (AP) men’s team has sold out two games in a row for the first time at Viejas Arena and the streak just might continue with the USD game on Saturday. (SDSU is now ranked #7 and has four sellouts on the season)
Before the Aztecs’ game with the Saint Mary’s Gaels December 1, we had 150 alumni and fans show up for a pre-game party in our lobby. At the same time, hundreds of students were attending a basketball tailgate over at Aztec Center. The arena marquee was flashing a “sold out” message. Early basketball traffic was jamming the streets.
In a walk across campus a palpable excitement was evident – a “buzz” if you will. It’s the kind of thing we haven’t seen on The Mesa in quite a while, if ever.
There’s bowl gear at the bookstore. Students who have never attended a basketball game before are packing the arena to cheer on the Aztecs. We seem to be in the midst of a sort of renaissance of school spirit here and it’s an incredible thing to witness.
That football and basketball are so inextricably woven into the fabric of our country’s higher education, a sage supervisor once told me, is not necessarily right, it just is.
So it is at the moment with Aztec Athletics. And while I will always be prouder of the meteoric rise of our school’s academic output and reputation over the past 20 years than a spike in our sports rankings, it sure is fun. And when it comes to getting students, alumni and community fired up, nothing else comes close.
It isn’t necessarily right, it just is.