You would be forgiven to be overly skeptical of the headline here, given Cleveland State’s history of having a fanbase that has displayed shades of apathy and combativeness, depending upon what time of the year it happens to be. You’d also be forgiven in thinking that there’s no way that this situation is ever going to change.
But something about this off-season seems kind of different. And at a pivotal point in the program, this needs to change everything.
In a previous column, I talked about the recent resurgence in Cleveland State’s social media presence, particularly on Twitter as it related to the recent Mascot Melee on SB Nation’s Mic-Major Madness site. While CSU’s mascot Magnus was edged out at the last minute by Scrappy, the mascot at North Texas, the push by Cleveland State was undeniable.
To anyone who has watched the Viking fanbase dwindle to a small, surly band over the years, the CSU off-season push was more than a pleasant surprise. And in the aftermath of the mascot battle, it offers hope that maybe, just maybe, the fandom can be emerge from life support.
It would appear that over the last month, Cleveland State has taken a multi-pronged approach to kick-starting interest. The first, of course, was social media, which was given an unexpected boost by the mascot challenge. That led CSU to venture beyond the keyboard, and Magnus was running all over the place, from television to radio.
And the true face of Cleveland State would have been remiss if he didn’t show up the annual gathering of freshmen that bears his name over the weekend.
But the extra bonus to Magnus being everywhere is that CSU is in ticket-giveaway mode now. With approximately 4,100-plus votes coming through on Twitter in the championship round versus Scrappy, Cleveland State made it known that it would reward those votes with two tickets to the men’s basketball home opener on November 17th against Coppin State.
Normally, a game against an opponent from the MEAC wouldn’t really inspire anyone to make their way down to the Wolstein Center. But, if even half of the 4,100 voters on Twitter cashed in on the freebie, head coach Dennis Felton’s debut would draw the biggest home crowd for an opener in years.
Whether this actually happens or not remains to be seen, of course. But it’s clear that CSU, under new athletic director Mike Thomas, has, at the very least, recognized that some of the old approaches have not netted the interest it had hoped.
The true test will be in the coming months, as basketball season approaches and Cleveland State makes its pitch to the masses to come to games. While many outside of CSU are viewing Felton’s opening season as transitional one, it will be important in terms of building the foundation for transforming the fan base.
If this summer truly is the turning point for the Viking faithful, does that mean that an attitude change by those who stood by Cleveland State the entire time be in order? Conventional wisdom would say this probably won’t happen. But with any fan base, the crazy diehards have always been a small sliver of the whole. It’s just at CSU’s whole has never really been that large.
For a new era in Cleveland State, that change must come.
E-mail Bob at bob.mcdonal[email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.
Image via CSUVikings.com