8 Sports and Spectatorship in a University Setting

Hannah McDavid, Ulises Esquivel

How this connects to the place of sports in the university via thick institution.

Sports and spectatorship within the university setting are essential in creating an atmosphere that is representative of a thick institution. Spectators build morale and manifest an environment that a collective will have a life-long tie to. According to a student opinion article in the New York Times, (in relation to the empty and thin atmospheres during the coronavirus pandemic) even though roaring crowd noise and cardboard cut outs of spectators were placeholding a real crowd at university games, the spectator-free environment felt nothing like sports at all. There is no metaphorical barrier- a fourth wall- between athletes and spectators in sports, and the feeling of empowerment provided by traditions, community, and identity is a key role of spectators in university sports. Sports and spectators exist in a university setting for more than just tossing a ball around or running around a field. They are there to lay foundation to a through community and spectatorship.


Photographed here is the University of Florida Ben Hill Griffin Stadium located in Gainesville, FL. It is designed for spectators to flock and become part of the university sports game. All around and within the stadium people gather for football season tail gating and more. A community is created here because spectators choose to be part of something bigger.Photo Credit: Pablo Corredor | CC BY-SA 4.0


Spectators play an undeniable role in sports, especially when looking at what constitutes a thick institution. Pictured above is the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium located at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL. This stadium provides room for approximately 100,000 people in the stands and provides a place to gather during the much-anticipated autumn football season. Alumni, current university students, and youth all gather here to be part of something bigger within an institution that makes people feel like they belong. This image conveys the idea of thick institutions because there is no other gain for gathering and spectating a football game, other than the inspiration found by participating in a collective. Every year, like clockwork, spectators of all ages and life paths come to fill this stadium to the brim and carry out the traditions of over 100 years.  Gathering to watch a Florida Gators Football game constitutes a part of every individual’s identity within this community. The spectators truly make the sport through developing something deeper that can be passed down through generations.


In one of our interviews, we were able to capture the importance of spectators in sports through the lense of thick institutions very clearly.  My stepbrother, Alexander, went into detail discussing the environment generated by so many people supporting a common goal just for the fun of it all.  He explained how the team playing the sport feeds off the energy generated by the crowd- it’s not just the crowd’s cheering that creates the game, but the sense of togetherness and common goal shared by everyone within a stadium. This is why the fan-bases for university sports are so much more than cheering spectators in the stands. Spectators serve to constitute a community with age-old traditions and space to belong as part of something more. They make universities desirable institutions beyond the classroom.



Doyne, Shannon. “Are Sports Just Not the Same without Spectators in the Stands?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Feb. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/17/learning/are-sports-just-not-the-same-without-spectators-in-the-stands.html.

Photo credits:

Image information and licensing: Picture taken July 2015 of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at the University of Florida © 2015 by Pablo Corredor is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0


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Stories From The Place of Sports in The University, 2022 Edition Copyright © 2022 by Students in The Place of Sports In The University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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