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Now or Never: Why DePaul must make a splash this year

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With the Big East schedule being released, here are reasons DePaul can, but more importantly needs to, bounce back this year.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor

There are many factors outside of players, coaches, and the actual games that affect a team's success. The city in which a team plays often affects team's performances. Chicago is a thriving city with a lot of sports history. Chicago sports fans have been subjected to glorious highs and some pitiful lows. While DePaul hasn't had the most favorable last few years, Chicago always seems to bounce back.

Because I’m a biased hockey fan: When the Chicago Blackhawks first drafted future stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in 2007-08, the Blackhawks consistently had one of the worst attendances in the NHL. They sat 29th out of 30 teams being blown out in numbers by new smaller hockey markets such as Carolina, Dallas, and Nashville. The management was poor from the coaching to the ownership. During ’97-’07 seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks made one playoff appearance, not to mention the decision of not televising home games. After these acquisitions, the Hawks quickly won two Stanley Cups in four years and remain a powerhouse in professional hockey. They have also been first in NHL attendance since 2008. They continue to be one of the most respected franchises in one of the best sports markets in America.

It is clear that Chicago supports success, even to an obscene length sometimes. Mike Ditka, the last Chicago Bears coach to win a Super Bowl, is still glorified as "Da Coach". With only one title as head coach of the Monsters of the Midway, Ditka hit the jackpot in Chicago. In baseball, World Series titles are scarce as the Chicago Cubs haven’t won a title in over 100 years. The White Sox finally took down their obnoxious World Series champs ’05 sign this year that was an eye sore for anyone driving on the Dan Ryan Expressway. Michael Jordan became an icon in pop culture through Chicago basketball, winning six championships, and is considered the best player of all time.

Through and through, Chicago prides itself on its success in sports across the board in all four major sports on a professional level.

Where do college teams come into the picture? Northwestern has constantly tried to market itself as "Chicago’s Big Ten Team" and other efforts have been made by University of Illinois to establish loyalty in The Second City. Chicago is filled with Notre Dame fans and state schools around the Midwest, but none are located in the city limits.

With Chicago in need of strong collegiate presence, why not DePaul? A dual campus draws fans from the downtown and Lincoln Park area, just 2 miles north from the heart of the city. This year’s team is undoubtedly sick of the lack of attention they have received since committing to player basketball at DePaul. The players want to make a splash and have the young talent to do so.

Therefore, there are a few things to consider moving forward with the 2014-15 season.

Purnell is here to stay for at least this year. The new stadium, to be located just south of downtown near McCormick Place, will not open until 2016. The program will not automatically achieve success if they’re in a bright, shiny new building. Why do we have to wait and only hope for improvement in the future? There is overdue attention that is deserved by the men’s basketball program at DePaul. Many DePaul alumni, fellow students and Chicagoans simply have an uninterested attitude toward it.

Waiting around for the future is not what these current players have in mind nor the new young starters ready to break out in college. Athletic directors with jaded practices still don’t suit up and play the sport of basketball. With negative attitudes comes negative preformance that will affect young college players on the floor. When you watch professional sports, you are watching some of the greatest athletes in the world perform incredible feats of athleticism and paying them top dollar to do so. College sports are the purest form of passionate athletic competition. Places like Cameron Indoor Stadium or Madison Square Garden are so special to play in because of the atmosphere the fans and players come together to create.

DePaul being an urban campus in Chicago should not limit the students from a school pride experience amongst college athletics. DePaul is able to provide that with a history of competitive college basketball. Driving to an off-campus facility to watch home games is not ideal, but it is all about perspective. Embracing the unique culture of a 25-minute bus ride to home games is better than blindly hating it and staying home altogether.

Before you know it, the days of bus rides to Rosemont will be done. There will be a new $125 million facility. Many students at DePaul won’t be an undergrad when the new stadium arrives at all. The intimacy of centralized transportation amongst students that all didn’t plan on being together at all on a crowded bus in blue and red will be lost. These days are unique and numbered, but I certainly am not wishing them away just yet.

DePaul certainly has young talent of Billy Garrett Jr., Tommy Hamilton IV, and R.J. Curington to develop into top notch Big East talent. They have veteran talent in Durrell McDonald and Forrest Robinson eager to be the foundation of leadership and poise throughout the year. There is only one direction the Blue Demons can go this year. In earlier interviews this summer, Curington set goals that DePaul wants to achieve this season. Offseason workouts and practice have garnered a more serious tone this summer heading into the season.

The focus is more apparent than ever across DePaul's locker room.

Oliver Purnell and the rest of the coaching staff have the ability to take the proverbial monkey off their back this season. DePaul needs to contend night in and night out in the Big East this year. DePaul University will need to win its students back into the Allstate Arena. Another season filled with injuries, lack of team chemistry, and self-doubt cannot plague the Blue Demons again. The time to step up and be the buzz of campus is right now. Purnell has the opportunity to stay here and finish what he started five years ago. It is up to DePaul students, the players, coaches, and the community to come together around this team. DePaul basketball is the major sport that represents the school on a national level. It is time to take back this campus and give fellow Blue Demons something to cheer about.