The student section here at South Carolina is nothing to be proud of.
Yes, you read that correctly.
I know that here at South Carolina, pride is taken in the fans of Carolina sports. Be it football, women's basketball or really any other sport taking place on campus, the stadium is almost always full come game time. Newspapers sent to high schoolers' homes almost always feature a picture of a sporting event, which is usually accompanied by another photo of students cheering. At South Carolina, coaches, players and administrators alike will be the first people to tell you that the University of South Carolina has the best fans in the world.
But as I sit through game after game and continually see the student sections empty after halftime, I can tell you one thing: the students here at South Carolina are not the best fans in the world — in fact, they aren't even close.
For all South Carolina sports, students are incentivized by the university to go to games. They are offered points to attend these sporting events, points that are integral in receiving tickets to the higher-revenue sporting events such as football. The deal with the students is simple: If they come to the game and stay until halftime, then they will be rewarded with a point and be enroute to a lower deck ticket at the next football game.
I can confidently say that it is for these points that students come to most games of any sport, since at almost every game I watch, nearly all of them leave at halftime once they have gained that point. The students who leave don’t care to see if their team wins. Most of them could not name a single player that they just cheered for. They probably don’t know the record of the team they just “supported," nor do they really care to know. This isn’t fandom; this is fake, and it is not something to be proud of.
Even at the heralded football games, the student section stands are usually around half full before the final whistle. Many students tailgated too hard, caring much more about the party than the game they intended to see. Others just got bored and left, knowing that outside the walls of Williams-Brice they can return to the fun that they were previously having. More just got tired and hot and felt that anywhere else was more comfortable than the metal bleachers they stood on.
A true fan would want to stay for the entirety of a game, especially a close game, to see their team to the very end. A student section to be proud of would not disassemble after their team gains a point, they get bored, or feel tired. Maybe here at the University of South Carolina, our student section quite isn’t as impressive as we all believe it to be. Maybe here, we’ve just found a great way to fake being the best fans around.