Lady Tops invite more than 5,000 students to “Education Day” game

Cole Claybourn

When Lady Topper fans looked at the schedule before the season started, they probably noticed an unusual 11:30 a.m. tipoff set for the Wednesday game against South Alabama on Feb. 2.

But WKU Athletics Director Ross Bjork said there’s a method to the scheduling madness.

Bjork announced Friday that Feb. 2 will be “Spread the Red Education Day,” when nearly 5,000 local students from grades 3-6 will be admitted to the game free of charge.

Bjork called it a “win-win” scenario and a “unique blend” between WKU athletics and the Warren County and Bowling Green schools.

“When I took this job last March, one of the core values that we talked about was community engagement,” he said. “This is another example of how we pride ourselves in being a part of the community.”

A statement released by WKU media relations Friday said the high number of students in attendance could mean a record-setting crowd for a Lady Topper game since Diddle Arena was renovated in 2002. According to the release, the largest crowd to see a Lady Topper game since then was 5,563 when WKU played Louisiana Tech on Nov. 19, 2005.

But Bjork said it’s turned into much more than just “packing the house.”

“It turned into the great components that we’re talking about – athletics and academics,” he said. “It’s a way to introduce children to a college campus and to pique their interest in athletics. Research shows about 75 percent of children drop out of sports before the age of 13.”

Tim Murley, superintendant of Warren County Public Schools, said there are only positives that can come out of young students visiting a college campus.

Nearly 4,200 county students and 1,200 city students are expected to attend the game.

But before that, WKU will make its presence known in the schools.

Bjork said during the month leading up to the game, Warren County Schools will acquire statistics and other information about the Lady Toppers and their opponents and implement them into math classes.

They’ll also use the information in geography lessons, as they’ll study the Lady Toppers’ roster and their opponents to learn different cities and states.

Also, several Lady Toppers will be visiting area schools in the month leading up to the game so that the students can meet them in person and develop a relationship with them before they see them play on Feb. 2.

“Since we aren’t in class until Jan. 24, this is a great time for them to go out and be a part of the community,” Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said.

Bjork said he’s seen something similar to this done at other schools and noticed that it created a tough atmosphere for the opponent to play. He said he thinks that tough atmosphere, plus the game being at such an unusual time, will draw even more fans to the game.

“Bring out your ear plugs because we know they’re going to be screaming,” he said.