For years it seems the University of Montana athletic department has been trying to jump-start the men’s basketball team and its lackluster fan base. Gimmicks like offering students cash prizes and free T-shirts didn’t really light the fuse.
But earlier this year, Athletic Director Jim O’Day and Coach Wayne Tinkle brought back one of the program’s most treasured traditions for one night only: The Zoo. On Friday, Nov. 9, students were invited to fill the east side seats of Dahlberg Arena, a la the sport’s heyday 30 years ago. And fill they did. Clad in white “Zoo” T-shirts, and boisterous throughout, the courtside students helped spur the Griz to a 75-39 trouncing of Colorado State. The 6,037 in attendance was, save for Griz-Cats, the team’s largest crowd of the season. It was also the team’s biggest win against a Division I opponent.
And that was it. Due to economic concerns—the Zoo is usually (half) filled with paying season-ticket holders—and skepticism that similar support wouldn’t last throughout the season, the Zoo never returned. Bummer, because at least for one night, Dahlberg Arena rocked like old times again. It sure seems like if UM brought back the tradition full-time, its concerns over hoops support would be answered.