Word got out about a significant moment in sports history mere minutes before the doors to Gill Coliseum opened to the public. Upon entering, it became clear players were just finding out about the passing of former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant.
Whether it be the emotion on players’ faces, the prayer circle at mid-court or the tears from Oregon senior guard Sabrina Ionescu during the national anthem, it became clear this matchup was not going to be a normal one.
Though Oregon State lost the game 66-57, there was a noticeable difference in the atmosphere. Yes, Gill Coliseum was filled to the brim for the matchup between two top-10 nationally ranked teams. Yes, Kobe’s passing had a big impact on everyone present for the game.
However, something else was different: the courtside section across from the Beaver bench, normally zoned as a general admission for women’s basketball games, was filled with exclusively students.
In order to sit in the section, students had to arrive early and get a red wristband. Doors to Gill Coliseum opened over an hour before the 1 p.m. tipoff and a line of students could be seen forming nearly an hour before the doors even opened.
For senior guard Mikayla Pivec, who led the team with 20 points and 12 rebounds against the Ducks, having more students courtside offered a noticeable energy boost for her and her teammates.
“I noticed that it seemed a lot louder right next to the court and it seemed like there were a lot more students at this game than normal,” Pivec said. “It just brings another element to our team and helping us have that much more energy.”
While the seating chart was different for the Civil War game compared to other home games this season, sections “F” through “J” are normally general admission for the Women’s Basketball games with students being able to sit in the section. However, for the Men’s home games, those seats are designated for students only.
Though Zack Lassiter, deputy athletics director for external operations at Oregon State University, was not able to give exact attendance numbers at Women’s games, he did note there has been a shift in the popularity among fans.
“Not as many students have historically gone to women’s games as men’s games, but as everyone’s seen the popularity of women’s basketball is awesome right now,” Lassiter said. “Students can go sit there, but there’s also a lot of folks in the community that want to come and sit there.”
Though student engagement has not been the best historically, Jason May, a freshman at OSU who has been attending games for years, said he “absolutely” thinks there should be a student section at women’s basketball games.
“They have a student section every game for the men’s and it fills up, and the women’s team gets just as much support,” May said. “The women’s program is superior to the men’s and they don’t get treated the same.”
With there being a difference in how seats are allocated for the Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams, a question could arise of whether or not the difference in student sections falls under the umbrella of “Title IX.” Title IX is a Federal law which states no person at an institution receiving federal dollars should be subject to discrimination based upon their sex.
According to Kim Kirkland, executive director and title IX coordinator at the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access, this situation does not fall under the umbrella of Title IX.
“There are no legal requirements (civil rights or Title IX) to have student seating sections at any sporting event,” Kirkland said in an email. “I think OSU’s Athletics Department is in compliance with Title IX and OSU policies and protocols as it relates to equal opportunity and access.”
Though OSU does not have a student section at all Women’s Basketball games, the University of Oregon does.
Jacob Archer, a writer with ScoopDuck.com who has covered almost every Ducks basketball game this season, said Oregon has a student section called the “Pit Crew” present at both Men’s and Women’s Basketball games.
“You have the Pit Crew which is right down by the baseline, and they’re loud, doing chants and it brings all of the energy in the whole arena… it gets the whole crowd into it,” Archer said. “It creates more of a fun environment and allures more fans and students to the games.”
With a noticeable difference for players and excitement from OSU Athletics, Lassiter said the department will talk about the next steps after the current season ends.
“We were very excited and appreciative in the level of excitement we received from students,” Lassiter said in an email. “We will have a good discussion after the season and decide how we want to move forward.”
Though the future of the student section is being put on hold until the end of the season, both Lassiter and Pivec expressed a desire to see more student engagement in the future.
“When Gill is at its best, you’ve got our alums, you’ve got our fans excited, but you’ve also got our student body excited,” Lassiter said. “We’re excited to see more students come out and support the team and so we’re hoping to see that grow.”
“I love having the students’ energy there, especially people that I’ve had some classes with that are able to come and support,” Pivec added. “[I] would love to see the student section continue to be there and continue to grow as much as possible.”
Pivec and the Beavers were on the road this weekend for a matchup against Colorado and Utah. They return to Gill Coliseum on Friday, Feb. 7, for a matchup against Arizona State. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.