The Sunflower

Pflugradt: In-game promos are crowd killers, detrimental to Shockers’ home success

At Koch Arena, an unpredictable game like basketball was rather predictable — Shocker win after Shocker win. For years, WSU’s athletic department has been able to prepare for soft promotions and schedule them for various points of the game; and in games where the Shockers lead by more than 10 points, the promotions did little harm. Blowout games like that are a thing of the past, and there needs to be more consideration from the promotion’s staff on how to build crowd energy.

Wichita+State+Shockers+fans+stripe+Koch+Arena+during+the+game+between+the+Wichita+State+Shockers+and+the+Houston+Cougars.
Wichita State Shockers fans stripe Koch Arena during the game between the Wichita State Shockers and the Houston Cougars.

Wichita State Shockers fans stripe Koch Arena during the game between the Wichita State Shockers and the Houston Cougars.

Brian Hayes

Brian Hayes

Wichita State Shockers fans stripe Koch Arena during the game between the Wichita State Shockers and the Houston Cougars.

Wednesday night I witnessed something quite rare: Wichita State losing at Koch Arena.

In fact, it was only the second time in my three years at the university such a thing has happened. Before the Shockers dropped to Northern Iowa in 2015, they had won 43 home games consecutively; and that streak was back up to 27 before Southern Methodist stormed into victory on Devlin Court earlier this week.

Matt Crow
SMU guard Ben Emelogu II Wednesday night in Koch Arena.

Losses at Koch Arena are unpredictable. Yet, losses can somewhat be expected when you upgrade competition to include teams like SMU, Houston and Cincinnati.

I’d be lying if I thought the Shockers — who have the 68th best strength of schedule in the country — would get through the season without losing at Koch Arena, and I’d be lying if I said I was confident it won’t happen again this year.

What should have been recognized this season, was the number of 20- and 30-point blowouts would be traded for single-digit victories, and in some cases loses. But what strikes me as odd, is the unpreparedness of the athletic department to realize what challenges it might be to keep the crowd energized when the beloved Shockers faced adversity.

Wednesday night, WSU struggled earlier and fell into a hole against American Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year, Shake Milton. Milton scored with ease as he wowed with a career best 33 points.

After trailing the Mustangs by 13 points in the second half, WSU miraculously pulled the game to within three points — forcing SMU coach Tim Jankovich to call a timeout to settle Koch Arena’s 10,000-plus person crowd.

Instead of bumping up the noise and playing hype videos on the big screen, WSU did Jankovich the honors cut to the next promotion — a kiss cam — and settled the crowd all their own. And in that instant, the energy was dead.

Former fifth-year Shocker Zach Bush took to Twitter to chime in. “BRUTAL,” he tweeted. “The energy is killed EVERY time there is a TO cause we go to announcements and slow lethargic promos.

“Crowd killers.”

He’s right. By the time the two teams came out of the timeout, the crowd was mostly silent, and SMU capitalized.

At Koch Arena in recent years, an unpredictable game like basketball was rather predictable. For years, WSU’s athletic department has been able to prepare for soft promotions and schedule them for various points of the game; and in games where the Shockers lead by more than 10 points, the promotions did little harm. Blowout games like that are a thing of the past, and there needs to be more consideration to from the promotion’s staff on how to build crowd energy.

 One fan called the attention of Athletic Director Darron Boatright, and Boatright replied, “I feel your pain. We would prefer to not have promos at all.”

Promotions aren’t the problem — they’re a piece of every sporting event — but the timing and production could be altered, and the way it looks ideas haven’t been explored in a long time.

To succeed in the AAC, WSU — now two games back out of first place — is going to have to defend home court, and that might not come easy without some help.  There’s a demand for change, and the athletic department should not be afraid to discuss new alternatives to how they handle in-game promotions.

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