We don’t have a 100,000-seat stadium. We don’t have Touchdown Jesus, Rock Chalk Jayhawk, or an insulting Native American Mascot. We don’t pay our athletes, idolize our coaches, or attend Friday night yell practices in anticipation for a Saturday afternoon game. And we never will.
We are nerds. We show up to intramurals in jeans and loafers, leaving our chemistry notes on the sidelines as we stumble around the Midway, and a sizable population of the student body probably considers World of Warcraft to be a sport. Heck, even our fantastic student cheering section sounds like something ripped from the pages of Harry Potter: The Phoenix Phanatix. We ought to just call ourselves Dumbledore’s Army and get it over with.
In spite of all of this, though, the University is still a hugely successful DIII powerhouse, and in recent years the athletic department has taken a number of steps to promote student interest and involvement with the Maroons. Free pizza and costume contests at basketball games and T-shirt giveaways have all been notable successes in boosting Chicago pride, as has the recent run of excellence in many of the varsity programs.
And now, we have the cherry on the sundae: a state-of-the-art renovation of Stagg Field. Due in large part to the generosity of Bernard J. DelGiorno (A.B. ’55) and the efforts of the athletic department, the field will undergo changes that have been long-needed but seemed out of reach. When the Maroons take the field next fall, they will go to work on a brand new synthetic grass surface that will allow them to play through rain, sleet, and snow. Sweetening the deal is a set of stadium lights that’ll make all those late-autumn practices cut short by early twilight a distant memory.
While the most significant result may be more practice opportunities—translating into even more success on the field—the impact on the student body should be tremendous as well. As it currently stands, Saturday afternoon soccer games are usually fairly well attended and the Maroons can always count on more than a few dedicated fans to cheer them on. Move that same game to 7 p.m. and it suddenly becomes an event; it’s the difference between a soccer game and the game.
With league scheduling dictating to a certain extent what time games can be played, the Maroons won’t be able to make every matchup a weekend highlight. Visiting teams have flights to catch and a late start doesn’t always work for everyone, but there are some scenarios that just seem too tantalizing to pass up. Imagine this: A year from now, soccer will battle it out with Wash U once more in a matchup that has traditionally capped off the regular season for both teams. And once more, it will likely determine both squads’ UAA and NCAA fates. Next year, when the highly anticipated rivalry returns to the South Side, it’ll be played under the lights of Stagg Field for the first time to a sold-out and raucous crowd. Why, it’ll be the biggest thing since K-Fed.