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Chris Collins Got A Renovated Arena At Northwestern. It Might Not Be Helping

Minnesota v Northwestern
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 11: Head coach Chris Collins of the Northwestern Wildcats looks on against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the first half during the first round of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 11, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Like most Duke fans, we’ve been following Chris Collins at Northwestern and hoping that he can take the Wildcats to their second NCAA Tournament.

Not second straight, not second in his tenure.

Second ever.

No one but Collins has ever managed to get them there as he did in the 2016-17 season.

We were excited that the school invested in renovating Welsh-Ryan Arena but according to this article from, they kind of blew it.

Let’s backtrack a bit.

After the tourney year, Northwestern went 15-17, which, by historical standards, is not that bad. The year after, when they had to play downtown while the arena was being renovated, and home court advantage was minimal, the team finished 8-22, which, historically, is more or less a reversion to the mean.

And in the Covid year, Collins finished 9-15 and given the pandemic restrictions, there were no fans, hence no homecourt advantage.

But the writer here says that Northwestern made a critical mistake with the renovation: they gave the lower seats to big donors.

We can’t imagine, given his experiences at Duke, that Collins was happy about that. Here’s what the writer says about the changes:

“...[S]ome donors who have those tickets often don’t go to games, and you’re left with a lower level with empty seats riddled throughout...Seats close to the court that are set aside for big spending donors, many of whom probably don’t show up to games when the team isn’t performing, create a sleepy atmosphere that can be easily invaded by an opposing fanbase...Students don’t stand up at games anymore or make much noise, creating a much less intimidating student section...[T]he new WRA can hold less fans than the old, which creates a lot of problems when the team is playing poorly, as it allows more opposing fans to buy up tickets. On top of all of that, the seats are too damn small.”

Aside from Duke’s experience, other places have shown the pitfalls of a new place being too deferential to the big shots. UNC’s Dean Dome was tagged early as a “cheese and wine crowd” by Florida State’s Sam Cassell, a tag it has never fully escaped.

We really hope that Northwestern finds a way out of this. College basketball is more fun for everyone when the students are at floor level. We’re pretty sure that at Duke, even if you offered those seats to the big donors, they’d recoil.

Well to be clear, spending a game amongst the Crazies is fun and people slip in all the time. But no one would dream of moving them upstairs to let the big donors sit courtside and we’re pretty sure that virtually every big money contributor understands that would kill what makes the place special.