A common perception held by some students is that Emory Athletics and the University at large lacks school spirit. Granted, no student comes to Emory expecting Southeastern Conference levels of school pride, whether it’s thousands of people attending sporting events or intoxicated dads tailgating in parking lots. You would expect, however, that an athletics program with 27 NCAA national championships would exhibit greater pride than it currently does. 

Some blame our perceived lack of spirit on not having a football team or on our athletes competing at the Division III level. Others claim Emory students are too stressed and overwhelmed by schoolwork to partake in activities outside of studying, specifically athletics. While these factors may play a role, I believe they are cop-outs that fail to address the larger institutional and cultural causes that are responsible for the average student’s apathy toward Emory Athletics.

A clear cause of weak enthusiasm toward Emory sports is its current lack of promotion. Many students are naive to when Emory teams compete, with some not even knowing what sports we have. I believe some don’t realize teams are competing until they accidentally stumble upon a basketball game while cutting through the Woodruff Physical Education Center (WoodPEC) to reach the Peavine Parking Deck.

Illustration by Ally Hom

Even as an athlete who spends countless hours in the WoodPEC, I’m still surprised sometimes when other teams are competing. This isn’t the fault of students but of the various campus organizations that are responsible for advertising athletic events. As an underclassman, I felt as if finger-painting in the basement of Dobbs Hall received more promotion than the volleyball team winning the NCAA tournament in 2018. 

A real incentive must exist for students to watch or attend Emory sporting events. The University attempts to entice student engagement with material items and sometimes even mandates it. Whether it’s necessitating attendance as a first-year PACE 101 requirement or rewarding students with free T-shirts if they attend a certain number of games, Emory may be able to artificially increase the amount of spectators in the bleachers, but this “gamification” of student participation does little to create an organic and sustainable environment of school pride. 

To create a tangible sense of community and support for one’s school and athletic programs, there must be a social incentive that draws students. None of the state schools we see enjoying intense school pride are able to fill up massive stadiums just because every person in the crowd is passionate about football.  

No, fans consistently show because games are exciting social hours, allowing students to meet with and cheer alongside friends and classmates. Sporting events can serve as great mediums for student engagement and relationships that would never have been formed otherwise, regardless of one’s interest in sports. There is no reason why our multiple top-ranked teams can’t serve as a platform to connect Emory students. 

One frustrating consequence of Emory’s lack of school spirit is the perceived divide between athletes and the rest of the student body. Obviously, the student-athlete college experience is markedly different than that of non-athletes, but the lack of enthusiasm toward Emory sports has imbued feelings of bitterness into the student-athlete population. 

This is best seen through the commonly used term “NARP,” which stands for “non-athletic regular person” and carries a negative connotation among student-athletes. The name implies that any student who does not brandish the blue Powerade bottle is less than. These dynamics only further divide Emory’s campus and harm the little school spirit Emory has. 

Encouraging support of Emory Athletics is not simply for the benefit of Emory athletes but also for the school as a whole. While Emory students boast some school spirit, it appears in small pockets through clubs and extracurriculars. What is sorely lacking, however, is a cohesive sense of school spirit in which all students share, and there is no better way to cultivate that spirit than through sports.