Not counting the pep band, how many Citadel cadets do you think attended the Bulldogs' Saturday night home basketball game against Wofford?
Did you guess 300?
Not even close.
No, way lower.
A hearty half-dozen?
In one of the saddest coincidences of the college season, the number of cadets in the end zone student section exactly matched the Citadel win total for the season: Four.
"I try to focus on preparing my team and getting them ready to play, but certainly a homecourt advantage is a help," Citadel head coach Chuck Driesell said after Wofford's predictable 77-56 victory before a crowd of 1,333 at McAlister Field House. "It is disappointing that the cadets don't come out."
Past Citadel basketball misery has made bestseller lists. Former player Pat Conroy wrote "My Losing Season." Seth Davis in his brilliant new "Wooden: A Coach's Life" reports that Los Angeles media in 1972 ripped the legendary John Wooden after a 105-49 rout of The Citadel for scheduling a foe worse than the team from L.A.'s Crenshaw High School.
But a 4-22 record with 14 straight losses and no Southern Conference wins is bad even by Bulldog basement standards.
"You see it all the time in sports; when you get that one win, you can build on that," Driesell said. "Then everybody's feeling good and the confidence level picks up. Confidence is a big part of an athlete's performance. Right now, we're very low in that category."
This Citadel basketball team, according to USA Today's Sagarin computer poll, is 348th among the 351 NCAA Division I teams. Driesell is 28-90 in his fourth season with the Bulldogs.
The student body has the school spirit of a dead minnow.
No cheerleaders, either
To make support matters worse, The Citadel opted this season to cut its cheerleader squad. Now, when things are bleakest, there's not even a loyal pom-pom or megaphone around.
Overall, there might be a more depressing homecourt scene in college basketball. But it must take a national tour and magnifying glass to find it.
It's up to Citadel officials to fix all of this, before fans and recruits are frightened beyond repair.
Not that the season has been without positive signs for a young team that doesn't have a senior.
Matt Van Scyoc, a 6-6 sophomore forward from Green Lake, Wis., is a terrific talent, one of the best players in the SoCon.
Sophomore forward C.J. Bray (James Island High School) is averaging 4.3 points per game but scored 9 points early in the first half of last week's loss at Appalachian State.
Brian White, a 6-6 freshman from Richmond, Va., looks like a major building block at times.
The Citadel has lost two SoCon games in overtime, two others by five points or less.
Too often, however, the Bulldogs play below their modest potential, grasping for any approach that works - only to switch gears again.
The fans deserve better, and the players deserve better student support.
Believin' or not
Sure, it was an "open weekend" last week at The Citadel, with cadets free to leave campus and find more fun than watching Wofford pummel their classmates. Lots of home basketball games have been played on open weekends before, but few with so few students on hand.
"I don't think about it that much," Van Scyoc said. "On the court, you're just trying to do things as a player. But if it's louder, it's definitely more fun. But you can only do so much with the fan support. I tried talking to my fellow cadets, but they'd rather be downtown than watching us."
At least the pep band came through with zeal. As Wofford's Lee Skinner attempted a free throw at the other end of the court, band members shouted, "Skinner's not gonna make it!"
Someone else at McAlister Field House has faith. During a Saturday night timeout with Wofford up 73-45 and 4:31 remaining, Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" blared over the public address system.
Too bad a lot of Citadel people didn't believe in the first place.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.