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Sterk finally addresses the downsized student section

Actually, he did on 1/15 through a letter to the good ol' Evergreen:

First, let me provide some context behind the rationale for our decision to revise the seating arrangement. Prior to this season, the allocation provided for student seating at men’s basketball home games was 5,732 seats. This accounted for 45.83 percent of the 11,722 seats in the coliseum, the largest allocation of seating devoted to students in the Pac-10. In the last two seasons, during the greatest two-year run in the history of the program, the average number of unused seats in the student section numbered 2,781 (2006-07 season) and 2,457 (2007-08). Furthermore, there was an average of 2,241 student seats left empty during the last six games of the 2008 Pac-10 schedule, which included No. 5 UCLA, No. 14 Stanford, USC, Arizona, Arizona State and Washington. I would also add that there were many instances last season when the general public portion of the building was sold out while sections within the student seating allotment were left unused.

Sterk, as I've come to expect from him, does a good job explaining the rationale here. The nail in the coffin of the old student section appears to be the "down the stretch" games last year. There's no excuse for that many empty seats in high-profile games, even if the alumni side left a comparable number of seats empty. Remember, the for-sale seats still generate or have the potential to generate money, which helps keep Tony in Pullman and everyone else happy.

Now, he may have cherry picked that stat of 2,241 seats empty per game - he does not include the disappointing loss to Cal that preceded those last six home games, which may have led to a decrease in attendance. Also, he includes a Washington game that happened the Saturday of Spring Break. But six games, especially with two ranked opponents, UW and the Arizona schools, is a big enough sample size for me to see that student support was, in fact, decreasing.

However, don't pay too much attention to the "largest student section in the Pac-10" speak. Of course we have the largest student sections in the Pac-10 for football and basketball. No other school needs student attendance like WSU. We are located in a city of 30,000 people, for crying out loud.

Still, the average number of seats missing in the student section is truly surprising. If 2,457, on average, were unused, that means close to half of the original 5,300 allotted student seats were empty last year. As someone who sits in the student section on a nightly basis, this doesn't seem right. But when you look at the old seating chart, you can see how it's plausible:



The orange is the old student section. Note just how much of it was in the upper deck of the coliseum. And, logically, as the "circle" around Friel Court gets wider, the more seats there are available are for people to sit. It's hard to see it from the lower bowl, but the vast majority of those seats sitting empty were up in the upper deck of Beasley. And there are a lot of seats up there.

Averages are tricky because they include games against the mid-major opponents, which few people attend overall, games over breaks, which less people attend, and games in the Pac-10 that everyone goes to. The true measure of fan support is those Pac-10 games. Which is why that 2,241 figure is so damning for the students. If we weren't getting full student sections at the highest profile games, maybe it was time to make a chop. At first I thought cutting 1,500 seats was excessive. Now it seems pretty reasonable.

Which brings me to my next point: why didn't Sterk write this letter to the students earlier? He could have avoided some serious PR issues, both with the Athletic Department and with ASWSU. This letter should have been out in November. Better late than never, I guess.

One glaring problem remains, though. The one thing the students always did, regardless of the game or time, was fill up the lower Bowl. The sections on the baseline in the lower bowl - sections 23 and 24 - should still belong to the students. Or, at the very least, the parts of those sections that are the pull-out bleachers. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking with it. We need to students close to the floor to do important things like yell and heckle opponents during free throws.

I'm no longer a student next year, but the current students should take note of one thing: even at the smaller size, the student section still isn't filling up this year.That's disheartening, and it just vindicates the athletic department's position.

So come to the games, students. Otherwise, you may see the student section get chopped even more next fall.