In 2006 & 2007 Florida’s team of superstars won back-to-back national championships. Joekim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer led their team in dominating fashion. All three of them said the Hump was the toughest place to play. They lost in 2005 and were nearly upset when they came to Starkville in 2007 – by a Bulldogs team that only made the NIT. Corey Brewer said the Hump was “a different kind of loud…so loud that you can’t think”.
That is the Hump I remember. I was at State from 2002-2007, and basketball games were loud, electric and exciting. If you wanted a lower level seat, you got to the Hump early, real early. If you wanted to make sure you got tickets to that week’s games, you woke up while it was still dark on Monday morning and got in line at the Bryan Building. The Hump was intense, it was deafening.
These days, not so much. The other night it looked like the arena was half full for the final minute of a close game vs. LSU. Why is this you ask? Here are my top 5 reasons why the Hump has lost a bit of its luster.
5. Hank Flick – He was the PA announcer for 32 years, but was asked to step down in 2009. His football presence was lukewarm, but his legendary call, “Welcome to the Hump foooor Hoops! For an evening of bas-ket-ball, MISSISSIPPI STATE STYLE!!” was a staple at MSU basketball games. He gave the players nick-names and really gave the job some personality.
4. Rick’s Rowdies/Dawg Pound – When we were in school, the Rick’s Rowdies were a collection of dwebs who got together in the name of basketball. Apparently, they’ve changed the name but not their personality. All the pretty people sit as far away from them as they can. The folks in between can’t decide if they want to cheer with the rowdies or act cool for the pretty people. Get rid of the rowdies so everyone will sit down and cheer together.
3. Distractions – Whenever there is a timeout, commercials, games or contests are used to draw the attention of the fans. Instead of hanging on the edge of our seat with sweaty palms, fans turn their attention to the jumbotron and lose their emotional ties to the game. One might create more nervous energy watching the game on the couch than at the Hump.
2. Students – Football is the alumni’s game, but basketball is the student’s game. Instead of being apathetic, they should be excited about our Top 20 team! If you’re 20 years old it should be fun to stand up and yell, high five your buddy and hug the Phi Mu you don’t know two rows back. Getting people energized in a basketball arena is the responsibility of the students, not the alumni from Jackson who worked all day and just drove two hours to see the game.
1. Seating Chart – Like I said before, basketball is a student’s game. The seating chart was changed in 2009 by Greg Bryne, and he said it was to “provide more lower level donor seating at side court, while putting our students behind each goal, thus improving atmosphere.” Perhaps the former was accomplished, the the ladder has been a total failure. The donors should have good seats, and that is court-side where the cameras can’t see them. The students should be court-side as well, opposite the donors, and in full view of the cameras.
I’m not sure if ole Hank Flick would be willing to come back, but all the other problems are solvable. Get rid of the “Dawg Pound” and bring the students back together. Keep the distractions to pre-game and halftime. Students, step it up. And change the seating chart so that we look good on TV, and are intimidating to opposing teams.
If all those things are corrected, the Hump will always be full when the team is at least decent. Perhaps some of the local fans were cast aside in favor of out-of-town fans with more money. Those out-of-town fans may not make it to all the games now, but they surely will if it’s more exciting at the Hump. Bottom line, MSU is putting a good product on the court, and they need the home court advantage we used to provide. Hail State.