Why are some UC sports teams not at home for Homecoming?


Source: homecoming.utica.edu

Maria Montero Silva, Editor in Chief

For many people at UC, Homecoming weekend is the most anticipated time of the year. The event normally brings thousands of visitors to the campus, including family, friends and alumni. A record was set last year with more than 2,000 people attending last Homecoming festivities. However, some students will be missing this year’s celebrations.

Specifically, the men and women’s soccer, women’s field hockey, women’s volleyball, men’s cross country and junior varsity football teams will be playing away from home during Homecoming weekend. In some cases, playing away from home during Homecoming has become a trend, which has student athletes wondering why they do not get show time compared to the football home game when the campus receives the highest number of visitors. 

“It’s a bummer because we don’t get to see the whole Homecoming experience and we usually miss it since we are away most of the time,” said Nicholas Spooner, a soccer player at UC.

This year Spooner’s team will be playing against Sage in Albany on Saturday, Oct. 19, “the main day of Homecoming,” he said.

Johnathan Tucker Marvin has been a student athlete at UC for three years but has never been able to experience Homecoming.

Tucker, who is also one of Spooner’s teammates, defined the situation as “disappointing” because “the game atmosphere is phenomenal and the support is more than usual” during Homecoming.

However, both Tucker and Spooner said the soccer team is dealing well with that reality.

“The team knows what is at stake and what they’re getting into when they choose to play college soccer,” Tucker said. “We aren’t always going to be around when there are big events around campus on the weekends. However, it’s a sacrifice that we all make for the love of the game and to represent Utica College.”

While Spooner said soccer players do not “hold anything against anyone” he also stated that it’s “kind of suspicious” the fact that the soccer team has not played at home during Homecoming weekend in six years. 

As a junior, Spooner also said he has never experienced Homecoming because of his commitment to the soccer team and added that he has no hope that they will be playing in Utica during Homecoming next year. 

The popularity of football in American sports had Spooner saying that “it’s not really surprising” to see the football team outnumbering every other sport at UC. 

“The most popular sport is football and they get the show time,” he said. “If you look at the audience numbers and compare, we’re not really up there with everyone else, even though we have the best record in Utica sports right now.”

Mark Kovacs, executive director of alumni and parent relations, is part of the Homecoming committee. He said the organization always chooses Homecoming to take place during a weekend that football has a home game because “it brings a massive amount of alumni, parents, families and students out for the game.”

The decision is not easy, however, according to Kovacs. There are several factors that come into place, such as national or religious holidays and the weather.

“This really only provides us a couple of weekends to decide on when Homecoming will occur,” Kovacs said. “Then the National Collegiate Athletic Association schedules all the various athletic competitions. We really don’t have control over how they schedule the various games […] so yes, this year is unusual in that our only home game is with football.”

Kovacs said he “feels badly” when a fall sport is away during the Saturday of Homecoming. An alternative that was put into place was to offer an “alumni game” or “to host an event to bring out parents, alumni, etc” Kovacs said.

“In the past, this usually happens in the spring and we have called it Moose Madness weekend,” he stated.

In fact, it is the conference the actor that is responsible for scheduling the different athletic competitions, meaning UC has no decision over what games take place and when they happen.

“That schedule is set forth in advance by the conference and we comply with all of that,” said Dave Fontaine, UC athletics director.

The process takes place before there is information about Homecoming and sometimes the dates of the competitions are established two years in advance, according to Fontaine. 

“All the teams are very important and I don’t want anybody to think that one is more important than the other,” he said. “We don’t know when the games are going to fall in the calendar when we’re going to have Homecoming.”

The only solution for that would be a change in the conference schedule. It is unlikely but it can happen, Fontaine said. 

“It’s difficult to have all games at home when we are not making the schedule,” Fontaine said. “We compete with different teams, so you have to look at their schedule, too.”

Game dates can also affect students’ breaks since teams such as men’s soccer or women’s hockey have games during the October break weekend.

“We certainly want all of our teams to play at home and to do so as often as they could because it’s always exciting to play at home in front of your home crowd, whether it’d be for Homecoming or any other day,” Fontaine said.

The athletics director also said he believes that in the future, UC will have four or five sports teams playing at Homecoming because it has happened in the past, even though “this is not one of those years, unfortunately.”

For all sports teams, the opportunity of playing on campus during Homecoming is important, especially when it comes to showcasing progress.

“We would definitely have more people come watch us and realize that we’re not the same team we were last year and even the year before that,” Spooner said. “We’re actually winning games now and doing really well.”

Spooner also said how receiving support from the UC community would create more excitement among the soccer team during games. 

“The more people we have at a game, the more excited we get because people will actually come and watch us play,” he said.

Spooner’s teammate Tucker expressed it would be “a great deal to represent the school during Homecoming weekend.”

“It’s one of those moments that you live and play for,” he said.