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From the Desk of Western Carolina Athletics Director, Chip Smith

Oct. 16, 2008

Catamount Fans,

Though we are only midway through the football schedule, basketball season is just ahead. Practice officially begins this Friday (Oct. 17) and the teams start play just a few weeks later. In anticipation of the season, we have had several discussions with members of both basketball staffs, student-athletes and others. The talks were aimed at finding ways to improve the atmosphere in the arena, get fans more engaged in the action and help make Catamount Basketball a special event at Western Carolina University.

There were many ideas on how to achieve these objectives. Some of them dealt with the "event" surrounding the game, the pre-game environment and making the Ramsey Center a real home court advantage for our teams. One of the most important of these is getting the crowd involved in the game. When the football team moved to the East side of Whitmire Stadium, it was done to so they would be closer to the student section. It has energized the both the students and the team. We decided to use this as a model for basketball seating as well, in addition to some other changes.

As anyone who has attended a basketball game in Ramsey knows, our crowds tend to spread throughout the seating area. To help bring the fans closer to the court and build excitement, we plan to cover many of the upper (uncushioned) seats around the arena until there is a need to make more seating available. This will ensure that fans have comfortable accommodations and can be a part of the game.

A suggestion to increase student involvement was to have their designated seating area placed behind the team, much like Whitmire Stadium. Students can "Back the Catamounts," literally and figuratively, from areas behind the team bench. Students will have the courtside sections from the team entrance to midcourt, from the floor up.

The seating area for non-students will now be across from the teams around through the end zone areas opposite from the band. The Pep Band will remain in its usual spot to support the teams during the games.

We have made these changes to provide a home court advantage that can help energize the players and coaches and we appreciate everyone's willingness to help us build a winning basketball tradition in Ramsey. At the same time, we want to include you in the process. If you have any questions about the new seating arrangement, you can send your thoughts by clicking HERE or click on the "FEEDBACK" link at the very bottom of the webpage. Make sure to select "Athletic Department Feedback" before asking your question in the "Message" section. We will answer each inquiry specifically or through information on the website, such as this letter.

You will see other adjustments surrounding the game that are designed to be more fan-centered, show our appreciation for your attendance and provide an energetic, yet family-friendly environment.

This promises to be an exciting season for Coach Hunter, Coach Harper and both of their squads. We hope that the enthusiasm generated by these changes will help the Catamounts play harder, make the crowds more passionate and make the RRAC a place where other teams will not want to play. We need you to make a difference.