RIT is clearly not a sports school, and with all but two teams being classed in Division III, it's not hard to see why sports aren't at the forefront of the community's mind.
Although it might seem that our sports teams' class is what discourages students from going to games, matches and meets, it's not.
“I feel as though DI sports are the only sports that are covered, and if it isn't DI sports then it's lacrosse and basketball that receive the most coverage,” said Markus Hines, a second year Media Arts and Technology student on the track team.
From the outside, it looks like all any campus news outlet cares about is our Division I hockey teams. However, that is not the case. RIT's Athletics Department has a team that is extremely passionate about making sure all 24 teams feel valued and get the coverage they deserve.
Director of Sports Information Stephen Jaynes made it very clear that “If there’s a result, a story, we’ll post it.”
When you’re dealing with 24 teams, it is easy to miss things, but Jaynes assured that the Sports Information office tries to make up for it in some shape or form. They recruit the help of coaches and student athletes to help them get the story straight since they cannot always be present at every single game for every single team.
“Social media has allowed us to get the word out quicker,” Jaynes said, as he proceeded to show off the well-developed Twitter and Facebook pages for RIT Athletes. “It draws people back to the website.”
However, the majority of the attracted crowd are student athletes, family, friends and alumni. Most students aren’t going to the RIT Athletics website daily. Our student athletes would still like to see more fans filling their seats and to step out from underneath the shadow of the hockey teams.
Each sport team gets one Tiger Den event per year. Some would argue that’s not enough.
Gianna Heaviland, a third year Sociology and Anthropology major commented, “We had a Tiger Den event at the end of the season last year. It brought out a lot of people and some actually stayed to watch the event.”
One of the biggest fears of student athletes is that Tiger Dens might attract a crowd, but after the free food and giveaways run out they believe people won’t stay. In spite of this, attendance has increased thanks to the promotion of Tiger Den events. The Sports Information team also scouts for gravitating details to attract attention to each team, not just the few popular favorites.
“We look for the human interest story, to tell the story of the student athlete,” Jaynes explained.
This year, Sports Information introduced features which they will do for each sport team. They will look for a student athlete’s story to tell during that season and then upload it to the website. “We do the best we can,” he said.
All in all, the coverage that the RIT Athletics Department provides is more than most would realize. However, students choose not to notice, or in some cases, teams don’t take the prerogative to get themselves noticed. Though the Twitter account for the department will advertise the results for every single team, not every single team has their own Twitter account. That utility is up to them to provide and is highly encouraged by the Sports Information office.
“You’d think that it’s an internal struggle,” said Joe Venniro, the executive Sports Information director. “But really, we’re competing against the Bills, the Syracuse basketball and football teams, the Sabers, the Amerks.”
On campus is the only site for thorough representation, and many students feel that not all sports get it equally.
“The coverage for women’s sports sucks,” said Victoria Otis, a third year Sociology and Anthropology student.
“I don’t know when there’s even a game,” said Emily Cook, a second year Liberal Arts Exploration major.
“I think more coverage on DIII overall would increase support. Even if it's just coverage for important games or meets, that would be great,” Hines suggested.
Perhaps, if there were more collaboration from the student organizations on campus, that too could greatly increase attendance and support these teams would see. Student organizations are more than welcome to host special events for the different sports teams or with SAAC and Campus Life when they do Tiger Dens. Free stuff does cost money, though.
Overall, though the coverage would appear to be lacking to students, the RIT Athletics Department as a whole tries its hardest to eliminate that visible divide students see between the hockey teams and the rest of the sports.
Maddie Bliss, a second year Photography student and cheerleader noted, “This year, they tried and things were a bit better, but it’s not there yet and we are still working on getting more recognition on campus.”
Agreeing with the sentiment, the Executive Director of the Athletics Department Lou Spiotti had this to say:
“When I say teams are treated fairly, I speak about the total experience that student-athletes get at RIT. That means everything from facilities, to equipment, coaching, support for team travel, competitive schedules and recognition. We want them all to feel valued and supported whether they are Division III or Division I. I would be the first to say that it’s not perfect. But, I would also be the first to say that we are constantly working at improving the student-athlete experience. Our teams have been very successful. We rate very highly within the NCAA. That doesn’t happen by accident. We have an excellent program, tremendous coaches and outstanding student-athletes who are highly motivated. And we are very proud of them.”