UWM hoops should have stayed downtown
It's rare that Mark Belling has ever been so tough on anybody like he was last week with Andy Geiger, the athletic director at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Oh, I suppose Belling, who hosts an afternoon shout show on WISN, gave a little more grief to Barack Obama, but his on-air rip of Geiger is a close second.
Belling, who said Geiger should never have been hired and should be fired now, based most of his criticism on the move by Geiger to take the UWM basketball games out of the U. S. Cellular Arena Downtown and move them back to campus and into the Klotsche Center.
Belling argued that Geiger "was hired for all the wrong reasons" and that "he has misjudged Milwaukee and UW-Milwaukee,"failing to understand that it is a commuter college and not anything like Ohio State, where Geiger made his reputation as an athletic director.
Geiger is treating UW-Milwaukee like it is Ohio State. He made the decision to move their basketball games out of the Downtown Milwaukee Arena, now the U.S. Cellular Arena. He decided to move the games back to the glorified high school gym on campus called the Klotsche Center.
He proclaimed, with arrogance, college sports should be played on campus. Says who? And why? If your best facility isn't on campus, you shouldn't spurn it merely because it is not on campus.
"They had a guy in there who helped rebuild the program, Bud Haidet, who I thought did a great job," Belling said, referring to the former UWM athletic director. " Instead of bringing in somebody who decided to make this close to a permanent job as Haidet did, they bring in a guy who is only going to be here for a little while and then, worst of all, let that guy make long-term decisions that affect things."
Belling went on to say that when the team played Downtown basketball fans in the community went to the games, even though the numbers weren't huge. And he pointed out, with a lot of accuracy, that hardly anybody will fight going to the East Side, one of the most dense population areas in the city, to watch a UWM game.
Now, I agree with Belling about as often as we've gotten measurable snow in Milwaukee this winter, but on this one we find ourselves almost on the same side.
He doesn't think UWM should be playing Division I basketball games on campus. I don't think UWM should be playing Division I basketball, or any collegiate basketball except for intramural games.
I don't know how much more evidence we need that almost nobody cares about UWM athletics.
They play in the Horizon League with such attractive powers as Youngstown State and Cleveland State. They are lucky to draw a thousand fans to their games on campus. It's hard to recruit any good players to UWM, as evidenced by their last place spot in the league this year.
The university is trying. They have essentially changed their name to "Milwaukee" in promotional material. They call themselves the "Milwaukee Panthers." We have not been fooled. They are still the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
They have quite an array of sports in addition to men's basketball. For men they have track and field, swimming and diving, cross country, baseball and soccer. For women they have basketball, cross country, swimming and diving, track and field, soccer and volleyball.
The combined attendance at all of those others probably doesn't come close to the meager attendance at men's basketball games.
If the people at UWM insist on having intercollegiate sports, let them move to Division III and get into the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Let them play La Crosse and Platteville and Stout. Those schools have some support and people might actually come to Milwaukee to watch games.
If they can't figure out how to do that, they'd be better off just staging nice intramural sports programs and forget about having fans or spectators. Right now, they have neither.
So UWM should play intramural basketball? Kind of like Dave Bagel should be writing for a grade school newspaper? UWM's stadium holds 3600 people. Short of when they played Marquette or Madison, I've never seen half that many people at the games at the Cell. UWM is saving money and getting more students to come to games. They can jump back to the Cell whenever they want. At this point in the program playing games on campus makes sense. Oh, and the east side parking excuse is lame. I'd rather park for free on the East side than pay $30 to park downtown any day.
Belling should stick to political commentary, not sports. Both him & Begel are way off base regarding UWM being a commuter campus. If they took the time to check with the UWM Housing Dept., all the dorms have close to 100% occupancy. Basketball games were moved to Klotsche to create more school spirit on campus. And, if they don't like the "Milwaukee Panthers", then they should call Barry Alvarez and tell him the "Wisconsin Badgers" should be called the "UW-Wisconsin Badgers." Talk about being petty, Begel. Your suggestion to just have intramural basketball is also a joke. If it doesn't work out at Klotsche, they can always move the games back to downtown, but the basketball program is solid, our team is talented and if you don't like it, then move to LaCrosse or Stout and watch their games.
Wisconsin 101 - If you want to encourage Wi people to go to a local sporting event, you dont move the event form a venue that serves beer to a venue that does not.
Yes, the Panthers should throw away their league championships and post season banners. Shut it down and play intramural. Good grief... Once again we have to read a completely uniformed article about Panther bball from a guy that's probably never taken in a game. If judging a program through the lens of a half-season is the starting point for analysis, I think we can throw this article in the trash and try again. I agree that the games should be played downtown. As a longtime season ticket holder, it was much more enjoyable. However, I have no issues watching games on campus if the long-term goal is to build an appropriate on-campus arena. The problem is, no long-term plan is in place. We were sold that bill of goods about a year ago only to learn that an arena plan is on hold. There's no significant talent deficit at UWM. What's deficient is leadership. We have a revolving door in the AD office and a mediocre head coach. Considering the AD situation, it's remarkable how well the University has done in athletics across the board.
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