It looks like we did it again. For the second time this season and the third time in less than a year, Cal State Bakersfield's men’s basketball has sold out another home game. This sellout, however, is completely unique in its nature as this Thursday the Icardo Center will be full of 3,500 yelling, screaming, stomping, raucous school kids on field trips just before the holiday break.
Yes, Education Day is now in its second season, and for the first time it is a sellout. The schools that took part last year loved it so much they signed up again. Our ticket salespeople did a fantastic jobs hitting the phones to get even more schools to come on board and spend the morning on campus, touring the school, getting a taste of the college experience before capping the afternoon with a college basketball game. It’s a new local hit.
It is also by far the most unique audience we’ll get all season. We’re playing Bethesda University, a very-small NAIA program that has an enrollment of about 300 students, meaning more than 10 times their student body will be at the game on Thursday. Although the opponent is small, the kids don’t care. They come to see their Roadrunners win, they come to see slam dunks, to hear the band play, to see players five times their height shoot a basketball, and more importantly, they come to make noise.
“If you want to hear some noise, then the Icardo Center is the place to be on Thursday,” head coach Rod Barnes said with a smile on his face after CSUB’s win over Portland State Saturday night. It won’t matter if we’re winning by 15 or 50, the crowd never stops on Education Day. Think about it. What elementary or middle school kid wouldn’t relish the chance to spend school hours doing what is normally considered disruptive in class? It’s part of our sales pitch.
It’s also a day when local students get a chance to attach themselves to their local university. For many it’s their first visit to a college campus. They’ve seen them on TV and heard about college. Many probably think it’s someplace far away, but many are surprised to know that college can actually be right around the corner, and with it, a college basketball team to call their own.
We hope to make fans for life on days like this, to create that affinity at a young age so 10 years from now we can hear the stories of the season-ticket holder who says he went to his first CSUB Roadrunners game with his school on a field trip and was hooked ever since. Yes, that’s the type of reaction we’re looking for and we will build as this event continues to be a hot ticket.
So although the noise will be at new levels, the spills will keep the facilities crew busy and the arena looking like a tornado hit when the place eventually empties out, Education Day is expected to be one of our favorite games of the year. It's a place where new memories will create fans who will strengthen our connection to our community. Fans that will always believe CSUB and CSUB basketball is their home team.
Corey Costelloe, a Tehachapi High graduate, is assistant athletics director for communications for California State University, Bakersfield.