Response to Scott Van Pelt’s Comments on Maryland Students

Scott Van Pelt came out last week and blasted Maryland students for poor attendance at the Maryland-Florida St., basketball game.

“[The University of Maryland] started letting in a lot more smart people that are really driven about their futures, and you guys had to study last night, and good for you,” Van Pelt said last Wednesday during an appearance on ESPN 980.  “We had class back when I went to school, too.  And we went to games.  Because part of a college experience is a well-rounded experience, and going to athletic games is a big part of that.”

Van Pelt was angry, and he certainly had a reason.  The crowd was the lowest since 2003, when a snowstorm postponed a game and even the rescheduled game was played in slippery conditions.  The Terps were also still in the NCAA Tournament hunt for this year’s game—and they ended up winning in exciting fashion.

Schools can’t force students to go to games, and many outsiders would consider it admirable for students to be focused on their studies.  Van Pelt has every right to be disappointed in his school.  I was at the game and I was disappointed in the turnout among the students.

But Van Pelt expressed something else: anger.  He said college was about “living a little bit, outside I have to do my econ homework.”  Van Pelt proceeded to admit his GPA was pitiful, but it all worked out for him—and he didn’t miss games.

Yet Van Pelt fails to acknowledge that not everyone is destined to become a sports anchor at ESPN—a position where your knowledge of sports is more important than your college GPA.  Undoubtedly, that Economics major working on his econ homework needs a high GPA out of school to get a job in economics.

Sports are supposed to be a positive influence on young people, a fun outlet for people to let go.  If students don’t want to go to games, no one should make them, nor can anyone get angry at them.  It is sad for sports fans when we realize that not everyone love sports as much as us, but to say that it is an obligation for students at a University to attend sporting events is a stretch of the highest degree.

My brother plays football at the U.S. Merchant Marines Academy.  There, students are required to go to games.  They are also required to do push-ups whenever the team scores.  Forcing students to go makes them hate the football team.  If students were mandated to attend games, the games wouldn’t be fun.

If students don’t like sports and would actually prefer to study, it does not help for a prominent alumnus of the University to attack them—it reflects as poorly on the University as poor attendance at a basketball game.

The Terps have an exciting team this year, regardless of any game’s outcome.  Terrell Stoglin is an explosive scorer, Pe’shon Howard makes electric passes and Jordan Williams is the best big man in the ACC.  There will always be a contingent of students that only show up if the team is winning.  But there is an equally large group of students that truly enjoys watching the game—just for the hell of it.



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