Sage Steele calls out IU fans fans for leaving early, but pigs at the trough cause empty seats

Here’s what ESPN’s Sage Steele tweeted about IU fans leaving Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall early Tuesday night:

A few things to know about the game:

  • 9p start time because of ESPN scheduling.
  • Game went two OTs and lasted until almost Midnight.
  • Pace was marred by endless replay reviews.
  • Many fans come from Indianapolis – an hour away.
  • Indiana had lost 12 of 13 before that game.

I understand Sage’s concern.  Riding out a game this thrilling should be a moral imperative for IU fans.  Many of us come from a time when IU games were must see TV around which schedules were built.

To go to a game at Assembly Hall was a gift not to be disrespected with an early departure.  Watching IU play with passion among 17,000+ like-minded zealots was a bucket list item.

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Then Indiana became (mostly) mediocre, the pace of games was stunted by replay reviews, and start times were dictated by networks determined to maximize exposure and revenue.

Games were no longer geared toward in-arena fan satisfaction.  They evolved into a TV show presented in spite of fans who choose to attend – not for them.

Conferences want money, schools want money, and networks want money.

The same thing has happened with football.  As TV networks have determined how to pace the TV broadcast of a football game and when to start it to maximize revenue, fans have shown up up in fewer numbers, and they don’t stay as long.

Football games used to take three hours.  That still seems to be the right amount a time to remain anchored to a bleacher seat, so that is how long fans remain.  After three hours, people head back to the car to reboot the tailgate or head to campus bars.  Chastising fans for leaving is the worst way to correct the problem.  The best is to listen to them, and correct the issues that lead to their exodus.

Basketball games used to begin at 7p-ish, and lasted a max of two hours.  To expect people to destroy Wednesday productivity for a little more Tuesday night basketball is ridiculous.  Even Indiana Basketball isn’t that important.

Sage is one of the nicest people in sports media and a great Hoosier, but admonishing fans who have been awake for 16 hours, worked a full day, and have an hour drive ahead of them for leaving a basketball game that would last 2:55 is just silly – especially when her employer is partially culpable for the scheduling.

Tickets provide fans a choice to attend and stay; they do not command our rigid attendance.

As the NCAA, conferences, and schools continue to allow TV networks to prioritize revenue generation beyond the needs of the in-arena fan, fans will continue to respond by living lives on their schedule – not the network’s.

If Sage is unhappy with empty Assembly Hall seats at 11:39p, she should wander down the hall in Bristol and complain to her bosses.  They’re responsible for her discontent.

Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at

8 thoughts on “Sage Steele calls out IU fans fans for leaving early, but pigs at the trough cause empty seats

  1. Hank Reed

    I get your point, but it is the same for every school. I recall Bob Knight was fighting the late starts in the 80’s. I think fans are less passionate than they used to be. Maybe the wrong people are getting the tickets. I don’t live close enough to go to the games, but if you are going you plan ahead, especially if your coming from Indy and be prepared to stay. Look at what they missed, which is their loss. Whether it is an IU game, Chiefs game, my wife’s Jayhawks games, Cardinals game., if it’s worth going, it’s worth staying. If not, I think there are plenty of people who will take your tickets.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      I once went to a Cardinals game with my son that went 19 innings. After the 10th, we walked over to Mike Shannon’s and got a couple of steaks. We paid the tab and walked back to Busch for the 17th, 18th, and 19th. I stand by that decision.


    Kent, heard the news. Sorry to hear. Hope all is well. You’re a grinder so I’m sure everything will work out.

  3. CEOEditor

    We were there. It never occurred to us to leave early because we wanted to celebrate the win. And we’d already committed to being tired when we signed up for a 9 p.m. game.

    But I don’t blame those who did leave. My nephew was one of them. He had to get up at 4 a.m. to start his shift at the hospital at 5. They listened on the radio on the drive back to Indy. I was glad the guy next to me left at the end of regulation because he was a Wisconsin fan. LOL

    And the constant replay reviews were annoying as heck. I actually blame them the most. The band played the fight song on a loop and the crowd zoned out for big chunks of the overtimes because there was nothing to see or do. When you start to deflate the interest, you give folks time to check their watches and start to worry about how they’re going to report to the boss in the morning.

  4. Joe Large

    Hey Kent,
    I’m sure you’ve already thought about this, but what about a podcast. Kent on Indiana Sports or some such and do 90 minutes or so. I’d sign up for it.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      I’m thinking about a bunch of things – that included. Trying to figure out equipment and tech needs right now. Should have more clarity over the weekend. Thanks for the love.


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