The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Opinion | Why don’t UI students attend men’s basketball games?

The student experience at Carver-Hawkeye Arena continues to suffer during men’s basketball games. Here’s what some of the students are saying, and some of the issues that athletic director Beth Goetz can fix to get them involved.
Shaely Odean
Iowa guard, Tony Perkins shoots the ball during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Nebraska at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 94-76.

Carver-Hawkeye Arena was one of the toughest places to play in the Big Ten for years. Over 15,000 Iowa men’s basketball fans consistently packed the house, and the Hawkeyes felt the home-court advantage each time they took the floor.

Longtime Big Ten Network analyst Stephen Bardo has often recalled on his broadcasts how boisterous the crowds were during his playing days with Illinois in the late 1980s.

But those days are long gone.

Today, Carver is no longer considered a tough place to play. It’s now considered one of the worst venues in the entire conference. Attendance for men’s basketball continues to decrease and doesn’t look like it will improve in the future.

In a home game against Maryland on Jan. 30, the UI sold 8,532 tickets, a little more than half of the arena’s capacity at 14,998.

The craziness of a student section has defined college sports for a long time. Some of the most famous student sections in college basketball are Michigan State’s Izzone, Duke’s Cameron Crazies, and Pittsburgh’s Oakland Zoo.

Iowa’s official student cheering section is the Hawks Nest, whose goal is “to bring excitement to fans and intimidation to opponents.” Iowa students are known for showing out in large numbers at Kinnick Stadium during the fall.

Simply put, the students just haven’t shown up for men’s basketball this year.

To date, the only game this season that has had a full student section was the Purdue game on Jan. 20. The Boilermakers came into the game ranked No. 2 in the country, and with the contest held on a Saturday afternoon, a full section was expected.

Despite the packed environment, UI student Brooks Hoffman felt there wasn’t much effort to get the students involved. Hoffman doesn’t normally attend men’s basketball games but went to the Purdue game due to the hype surrounding it.

“I really wish that they would have gotten the students more involved because it just felt like we were just there,” Hoffman said.

Newly appointed Athletic Director Beth Goetz has made it known that she wants to change the fan experience at Carver, specifically for the student body.

“Lots of conversation from our students about the environment that they may be able to create in and around the floor is really important,” Goetz told reporters at her introductory press conference on Jan. 23.

After scrolling through social media, here are some of the major issues for students that Goetz should consider to garner more student involvement at men’s basketball games.

Getting to Carver

One of the biggest problems for students attending basketball games is the difficult location of Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The arena is situated on the northwestern side of the university’s campus, and it has long been difficult for students to get to.

Students have two options to get to the arena: by bus or on foot. While taking a bus seems like the most logistical solution, UI’s CAMBUS system has very few routes to the venue before the game, and there are even fewer options after a game. This forces many students to walk home, and with the venue located near Coralville, it’s a long and sometimes chilly walk for students living on the east side of campus.

Hoffman says the time commitment is the biggest factor when attending events at Carver-Hawkeye.

“It’s not really that hard to get to Carver, but it’s pretty time-consuming, whether you’re on a bus or on foot,” Hoffman said.

There have also been discussions from fans on X, formerly known as Twitter, who say that the university should initiate some sort of shuttle system for students living in residence halls. 

Student section size

Iowa has one of the largest student sections in the Big Ten for men’s basketball, and from an outsider’s perspective, that might make sense. After all, the Hawkeyes are known for packing the stands and making noise at Kinnick Stadium each fall.

But, if you look at the men’s basketball side of things, the picture becomes a little clearer.

For students, the university designates all sections H-K and slim pieces of sections G and F for students alone. If you combine all the sections, this equals roughly over 2,000 seats to fill each game.

Many of the schools in the Big Ten use the same capacity, but it’s logistically possible for those schools.

Iowa is the third-smallest university in the conference by enrollment behind only Nebraska and Northwestern. With just over 21,000 undergraduate students, nearly 10 percent of the student body is needed to fill out the student section for each game.

UI students Matthew Finn and Brian Goldsmith are both regular attendees of men’s basketball games, but both have different feelings about the fan experience for students.

“I honestly wouldn’t change anything, but if I would change something, I would love to put more ice cream stands in,” Goldsmith joked.

As for Finn, the student experience in Carver could be better.

“I really love coming to games, but it’s definitely time for a change,” Finn said. “I think it would be better to have more courtside seating for students.”

Regardless of the differing opinions shared by the student body, Goetz has her hands full if she wants to try and revitalize the dormant student section at Carver-Hawkeye.

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About the Contributors
Brad Schultz
Brad Schultz, Sports Reporter
Brad Schultz is a sophomore at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Sports Studies. This is first year working as a sports reporter and he has a deep passion and love for sports. Outside of the Daily Iowan, Brad is a contributor for Saturday Blitz, a college football site, with his content primarily covering Iowa and the Big Ten.
Shaely Odean
Shaely Odean, Photojournalist
Shaely Odean is a transfer student at the University of Iowa, currently in her third year. She is pursuing double majors in Journalism and Strategic Communications, as well as Sustainability Sciences. Shaely works as a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan, and her passion lies in environmental issues. Before joining the University of Iowa, she attended Kirkwood Community College, where she served as the photo editor for the Kirkwood Communique.