The debate amongst the UofL football community rages on about the “performance”, if you will, of Cardinal football fans. Saturday’s game against UConn officially drew 48,591 fans, yet again, there were numerous empty seats all throughout the contest which has reignited the discussion regarding fan attendance. The debate generally turns into an argument between two camps: the get in your seats early and stay there most of the game camp vs. the we paid for these seats we can do whatever we want camp.
Those on the get in your seats early crowd argue if we want the Louisville football program to be a top program nationally, we need to perform like fans at big-time programs, which means get there on time. Those on the opposing side counter with the football game is just part of the gameday experience, which include tailgating and socializing with fellow fans while in the stadium.
Before I start opining, let me first state I am one of those who is there early. I enjoy tailgating very much, specifically tossing some bags with an ice cold adult beverage in a sweet StraitPinkie koozie. However, I’m there to watch a football game, so I make it a point to get into the stadium about twenty minutes before kick-off. I love the video intro and being there when the team runs on the field and believe the players deserve to run out to a raucous crowd.
Therefore, it’s pretty appalling to me how many unused seats there are. In the recent past, many people said they weren’t going to games because they couldn’t stand the previous coach and as soon as that coach was gone, they would come back. Well, that coach is gone, the product on the field has improved, yet we still are not seeing a consistently packed Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
And by the way, the weather has been tremendous for all home games so that excuse doesn’t fly.
Some argue the party deck and improved amenities contribute to the issue, and indeed they do, but only to a certain degree. The UConn crowd was approximately 6,000 people short of capacity and as someone who was at the game, I can assure you there was not 6,000 people on the party deck.
But let’s go back to my first paragraph and the way I described one faction of the fan base. I termed these people the “we paid for these seats we can do whatever we want camp.” First, you are absolutely correct. You most likely spent a lot of money on those seats and it is perfectly within your right to show up late, or not at all. My only question would be, if you spent so much money, why would you not want to really get your money’s worth and be there for the whole game?
If you are buying tickets to tailgate and get hammered in the parking lot, you do realize you don’t need to buy season tickets to do that? Maybe some people don’t. Seems like a giant waste of money to me.
Another point of contention is the view that UofL football fans have always been this way, so coaches and fans need to just admit it and move on. That’s a grrreat attitude (and I cannot stress how sarcastic of a statement that was). We have not been able to consistently fill up a twelve year old, beautiful facility, even during the pinnacle of our success, so we should never strive to do that. Let’s just admit we can’t do it. We shouldn’t even try to improve.
Hopefully, the sarcasm is now apparent because as David Spade said in Tommy Boy, I’m laying it on pretty thick.
I think a very important thing to remember is the UofL football fan base is not that old. When we talk about fan bases like LSU, Georgia, Ohio State, etc, we are talking some of the most storied college football programs of all time. Remember, those fans have been heavily involved in college football for 50-60 years, many of them longer than that.
Contrast that with Louisville football. Outside of a handful of good seasons, the UofL football program really took shape when Howard Schnellenberger arrived in 1985. In reality, the Louisville football fan base is only 25 years old, meaning we are still developing and growing.
Even though I would love to see 55,000 raucous fans ready to go ten minutes before opening kick, I understand this is a process and I hope those in the mix of the fan debate do as well.
So for those who want a jam packed stadium at kick-off, I’m totally with you, but understand as the program develops and evolves, so will the fans. We’ll get there, but it will just take time.