Can Basketball save UM?

First seen in The Montana Kaimin

As fears of asbestos permeate campus, enrollment struggles to pick up and classes migrate online, UM needs sports more than ever to rally, unify and propel the school back to health.

Sports often come under grumpy students’ budget cutting gripes. They question how the football team seems to receive new uniforms every other week when academic departments can’t even fund printers.

Donor money flows more freely to flashy Friday night lights than printers. You can’t get drunk while watching a printer spit out paper.

Sports serve an integral role at universities, uniting alumni, surrounding community and current students to form school spirit and pride. Historically, Missoula relied on football for this, but the events of 2011 created trust issues.

UM needs to stop chasing the ghosts of a troubled football program and invest in the hardwood.

Bobby Hauck said, after losing the Brawl of the Wild, the Griz football rebuilding project won’t be complete for another two years.

Hauck doesn’t understand that UM can’t spare two more years of bad football. Enrollment has been dropping since a rape scandal involving the football team unfolded at UM, shortly after his first stint in Missoula.

UM needs to leave the stadium for the arena. Basketball costs a fraction of the price tag on padding 100-plus football players.

Saturday night, Dahlberg arena vibrated with energy as fans screamed at the opposing Eagles. The arena wasn’t even at capacity, but the opposing head coach, Shantay Legrans said, “Montana, the fans are second to none, I mean look at the building. It’s a great place to play a game.”

The Griz and Lady Griz have consistently delivered great, nail-biting games and quality basketball for fans all season long.

Hippy and yuppified Missoula students, caught up smoking weed and sending it with $100 ski passes, deem themselves above school spirit and collegiate sports. But they forget sports cross lines and bring people together. Basketball is the ideal place for healing the broken bonds between Missoula and UM.

With its postcard scenery and old brick buildings echoing of East Coast legacy schools, UM holds an image of the classic collegiate experience with the wild twist of a grizzly bear thrown in.

The image historically attracted some of the best innovators and creative thinkers in the nation.

The valley needs the university, whether it wants it or not. Breathing life back into UM’s image will take students, faculty, alumni and community showing up and believing in UM together.

Basketball serves as the perfect icebreaker to start practicing this unification under the Dahlberg Arena rafters.