Editorial: There is a problem with Lehigh sports culture


It’s no secret that student attendance at sporting events has been a sore spot for Lehigh for years. 

With Saturday day parties (Mocos) keeping students on the Southside and poor transportation to Goodman Campus on the weekends, non-athlete students have almost no incentive to spend their weekends cheering on the Mountain Hawks.

The constant underrepresentation of Greek life and other non-student athletes at Lehigh sporting events speaks volumes to the truth of Lehigh sports culture:

There is a growing divide between the athlete and non-athlete populations at Lehigh.

The first step in addressing this division is getting more students to attend the games, but a long-term solution for Lehigh would require a change in culture from both the university and the students.  

If Lehigh wants more students to attend the games, it needs to create a more accessible and attractive sports environment for students.   

First and foremost, the transportation system for getting students to home games has to change. If only one busload of students can get to a Goodman every hour, you can’t expect a strong turnout. 

The easier the university makes it for students to get to Goodman, the more students you’ll see at the games. 

And to be realistic, a lot of students won’t come to Lehigh games if they can’t drink. 

If Lehigh were like Penn State and other Division I schools there would be a bar in their stadiums. Of course, with Lehigh’s denial for a liquor license for the new Clayton University Center, thwarts that idea. 

Alternatively, Lehigh could loosen up on the tailgating rules. 

If college students aren’t drinking at the games, they’ll be drinking somewhere else. Loosening up tailgating rules would bring the drinking to a location where Lehigh can better monitor it and bring out more students to watch Lehigh games.

More importantly than getting non-athlete students to attend games, the student body needs to address the gap between athletes and non-athletes. 

Lehigh athletes spend hours practicing or competing nearly every day. And most of them do so on a campus, Goodman, that non-athlete students have little-to-no reason to spend time at. 

This means athletes and non-athletes have limited opportunities to make meaningful connections and spend time together, and it’s probably not going to happen in huge class lectures, either.  

Patriot League athletics aren’t on the same talent or prestige level as larger conferences like the Big 10 or the ACC. So schools like Lehigh can’t rely on things like school spirit alone to bring students to games. Instead they must work towards fostering relationships between the athlete and non-athlete student populations. 

Building these relationships isn’t quite as simple as providing alcohol or letting students play beer pong in the parking lot. 

Athletes have completely different schedules and lifestyles than most of the student body at Lehigh, and it’s being reflected across the entire Lehigh social landscape.

Take parties for example — an off-campus fraternity or sorority house might neighbor a house of athletes, but they’ll each host their own party, and typically if you can get into one, you won’t be getting into the other. And this is especially true for male students.  

Obviously, there are exceptions, but that is just one of the few examples of the rapid  fragmentation of the student population at Lehigh.

Maybe progress looks like athletes being allowed to participate in Greek life in their teams’ offseason or different clubs sponsoring events in between periods at Lehigh games. 

None of The Brown and White Editorial Board plays a varsity sport at Lehigh (shocking, for sure) and only three of us are active members of Greek life. It would be disingenuous to say that we have the answer to this ever-present separation between students. 

But as passionate sports journalists and watchdogs of Lehigh culture, we can recognize that this athlete/non-athlete division in our student population is letting Lehigh sports culture become more isolating than unifying. 

Just this past February, the Lehigh men’s and women’s basketball teams beat Lafayette in overtime victories,  and the Lehigh baseball team had two back-to-back wins against Big 10 teams in Michigan State and No. 20 Iowa.

There are countless interesting storylines and exciting games played at Lehigh every season, but if the culture of Lehigh sports doesn’t change, it doesn’t matter.

If Lehigh wants to create a varsity sports program that’s entertaining and accessible, there need to be changes at the institutional and social levels. We cannot sit and watch as the student section gets ever-smaller and the cheers become ever-quieter. 


Comment policy

Comments posted to The Brown and White website are reviewed by a moderator before being approved. Incendiary speech or harassing language, including comments targeted at individuals, may be deemed unacceptable and not published. Spam and other soliciting will also be declined.

The Brown and White also reserves the right to not publish entirely anonymous comments.


  1. Nicholas Noel III on

    I am glad to see this issue raised by the editorial board. It has been a concern of many alumni over the past several years over the lack of undergraduate support in game attendance. This was an observed concern even before the pandemic of 2020, which exacerbated the problem. There could be along paper written about what the causes are, and I submit they are many. However, I submit it starts with the culture that has grown on campus over the past ten years. With the dawn of the internet, people no longer feel the need to get together in ‘bonding’ or social gatherings. The “C” word is a threatening feeling to many. “Commitment”. To make the effort to attend a game requires a commitment. You will have to speak to one another, face to face. You will have to travel a couple miles to Goodman or Stabler–even though the University provides bus service. (Yes, I agree the transportation service could be improved–but if the students don’t show an interest, why spend the extra money for more buses and drivers?). Twenty years ago, average attendance at Goodman was over 10,000 and the students made up a good percentage. Today, other than Laughyette game, I doubt there are more than few hundred in the stadium, including the Marching ’97. I realize that ‘times change’. It always does and with it technology. Yet, what shouldn’t change is one’s commitment to support our fellow student friends…and, have a good time in the process. I would hope that this editorial spawns a deeper discussion on campus AMONG students, student-athletes, administrators and faculty which can lead to serious consideration about what changes CAN in order to re-create the culture of togetherness on campus, as “Being Lehigh”. As a ‘senior alum’, I find it melancholy to see the disappearance of what many of us experienced 50 years ago. Hopefully, some leadership will be shown by the Student Senate in approaching the Administration to seek a rejuvenation of the Lehigh spirit and how it can be accomplished.

Leave A Reply