Never on Friday

Going to Army's game against Rutgers this past Friday was a surreal experience. I thought our group was late getting there, as we didn't hit Stoney Lonesome until a hour before game time. But we were the only car entering the check point. On our way down the hill, we thought we showed up on the wrong date.

The stadium looked completely empty. Our parking lot had very few cars, and the usual tents and tailgates were very few. There was no feeling of excitement from the people actually walking near the stadium, and when you add in the dreary weather, this was one depressing experience even before the game had begun.

Hopefully, with the ESPN contract going away, the administration has seen the light. There are no more weekday games currently on future schedules, and hopefully it stays that way. All the night games have been poorly attended, but Friday's crowd took the cake. I've been going to Michie since the 50's, and Friday's game was the smallest crowd I've ever seen and that includes the make-up game against Buffalo in 2001. There were only 20,000 tickets sold for the game besides the Corps, and a large portion of these folks simply didn't show.

And who could blame them? If you've gone to Michie for a night game, you know how it is. Unless you're at the stadium, everything else is dark. The parking lots have dim lights if they have any at all. The paths leading from the higher lots are dangerous. Naturally, the campus is also pretty dark and there's nothing much to see unless you show up mighty early. When the game ends, you can go into Highland Falls and look for a sidewalk that hasn't been rolled up. So the only fans that will show up on a cold rainy night are the die hards. And Army just doesn't have many of those left.

When you've been losing for as many years as Army has and you've seen the typical crowd dip by 30-35% during that time, you simply can no longer schedule games at any time except Saturday afternoon. A Rutgers game on a Saturday would have been a sellout or real close to one. The AAA lost probably between 300 to 400 thousand dollars in ticket sales playing on Friday. And the exposure playing on a weeknight has probably hurt USMA much more than it's helped. Anyone who actually tuned in got to see a sloppy game played in an empty stadium. There aren't many recruits that could get excited seeing that. But at least Army was competitive in the second half, unlike all the recent Friday evening nightmares.

So if you were one of the few who made it your business to show on Friday, be happy that maybe you've seen the last of it. There's many schools were everybody shows up rain or shine. West Point is not and will never be one of those places. It's time to do whatever it takes to fill Michie Stadium. Saturday afternoon games only would be a great start.

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