OPINION: Tang doesn’t just have to build a roster, he has to build a fan base

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Basketball head coach Jerome Tang at his opening press conference on March 24, 2022. (Benjamin Voller | Collegian Media Group)

Late on Monday night, a team from Kansas was cutting down the nets for its fourth time. Jubilation filled Mass Street in Lawrence while confetti was falling on the players in New Orleans.

A moment full of such joy for one school can also serve as a learning point for another. And that’s what this is.

When Jerome Tang signed on as the next head coach at Kansas State, it was praised as a home run hire. He’d seemingly bring the Wildcats back into the promised land. He wants to know his players’ ring sizes. He wants to fill Manhattan’s streets with the same jubilation.

Yet this program has never really seen that, and it shows in its fan base.

While KU students flooded the streets, K-State students stood by their side. Celebrating, cheering, running amuck hand-in-hand with their school’s biggest rival. A team they supposedly “hate.”

Not seeing the point? Let me paint a picture.

If North Carolina would’ve won that game, no one would’ve seen Duke fans taking the 30-minute drive southwest to Chapel Hill. Yet, in this scenario, that’s like saying they would.

Take K-State for another example. Say Tang does lead this program to the promised land and is cutting down the nets after a national title. I can almost guarantee that you won’t have a flash flood of students coming west on I-70 to celebrate the Wildcats. Why? Because of hatred. Because of a rivalry. Because of a loyal fan base.

Is it clear now? Good.

Tang has a lot of work to do. With just three scholarship guys currently on the roster – Markquis Nowell, Ismael Massoud and Logan Landers – and one incoming freshman (Taj Manning), it’s going to be an uphill battle to get a fan base committed.

From the outside looking in, the Tang era looks promising. Yes, key guys are leaving, but let them leave. Let Tang bring in the guys that want to be here — the guys who want to etch their name in history.

Tang is a proven recruiter who can get the job done. He is already actively involved with some of the best players in the transfer portal and is having meaningful conversations with five-star recruits – something that hasn’t been done at K-State in a very long time.

However, just because Tang can do it, doesn’t mean the fan base can’t do their own part to get those guys to stick around. Without help from the outside – apart from NCAA violations – those kids won’t want to come here, and no nets will be cut down.

A faithful, loyal fan base is what it takes to have success, and as of Monday night, that loyalty was tested. So either get on board the Tang train or hop off.

Because those who are on it don’t want to be slowed down by some damn birds.

Marshall Sunner is the Collegian’s graphic design chief and a senior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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