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Gonzaga Basketball

A quieter Kennel: Support from student section sputters, but Gonzaga’s home advantage still strong

Gonzaga Kennel Club members cheer on the Zags against Cal State Bakersfield on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (SR / Dan Pelle)
By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

“The Hum,” “Zombie Nation” and “Thunderstruck” are the songs that signal Gonzaga’s Kennel Club to start making its presence felt.

GU students pack 1,250 strong into the three lower bowl sections across from the benches in the McCarthey Athletic Center.

As music pumps through the 2-year-old sound system, the Kennel Club does its best to rattle opposing teams by jumping up and down, shaking the court and causing TV and radio broadcasters to constantly adjust their audio levels.

As the game progresses, the chances for a visiting upset slowly get eliminated with the help of the Kennel Club.

This is the scene during every home game, or at least most of them.

In recent years the student section has been called out by some former players and members of the media.

Former player and current TV analyst Dan Dickau has been public about his opinions on the lack of support from the Kennel Club and normal season-ticket holders.

On Wednesday, the Kennel Club should have about 1,000 students roaring for the Zags, which isn’t a surprise considering the game was scheduled over Christmas break.

“To be full on Wednesday is tough, simply because the fact that if I was a college student, and I had a chance to get home and see friends and family maybe that I haven’t seen, I probably want to get there,” Dickau said.

This season, the student section has never been full at the finish of a game. Full sections have been missing even for games not scheduled during a holiday break.

“I know it’s been lackluster,” former player and radio analyst Matt Santangelo said. “I’ve talked to friends and peers that were Kennel Club generations of old, that are really frustrated. There’s a certain level, a certain standard that’s been (expected), just like the basketball team. There’s a certain standard that the Kennel Club has to live up to, and expectations and pressure aren’t exactly the most fun things to deal with.”

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According to Richard Fox, former player and current TV analyst, this phenomenon isn’t just a Kennel Club problem.

“I think what Gonzaga is experiencing in respect to its student body’s engagement, i.e. the Kennel Club, is not unique to GU,” Fox said. “I read an article last year about Alabama having an issue with their football program and students leaving after a certain point, and you would have entire sections empty in the fourth quarter. But if the question is, ‘Is the Kennel Club what it used to be?’ I would say on a night-in, night-out basis, probably not.”

That doesn’t keep the Kennel from being recognized as one of the most difficult places to play in the country, nor does it keep the Bulldogs from racking up an NCAA-best 28-game home win streak.

“I tell everybody that comes in that when this place is going, it’s as good as anywhere,” Zags radio announcer Tom Hudson said. “I’ve been around the country and I’ve had the opportunity over 18 years to be in a lot of really special places, and the Kennel truly is – when it’s going – is as good as anywhere. I will back that up.”