As a former head coach I know the importance of having good fan support and I know what a difference they can mean to a team.
In Auburn's case this year the Tigers are predicted to not be a very good team because of losing so many good players from the national championship squad. This is one of those times when Auburn fans can play a tremendous role in picking up their football team and carrying it. I have seen it happen time and time again.
If Auburn, or any other college, wants to have the type of elite football program its fans desire it is important that all of the fans step up and support their team through the good times and the bad times.
In Auburn's case the program is fortunate to have a large number of fans who are going to attend every game, win or lose, no matter how the season is going. They are vitally important to the program, but so are the fans who aren't as faithful in their attendance.
Regardless of who the team is playing, it is important to have the stadium packed. Programs that have been among the best in the nation decade after decade have benefitted from that kind of support, which is a factor in success that should never been taken for granted.
When I was playing at Georgia the fans didn't support the team like they needed to and it was something the players noticed. If we were playing a good team, you would see the stadium fill up, but if we weren't the place would be half full.
This is definitely one of those seasons when a young Auburn team needs its fans. Auburn has a great coaching staff and those people have done a tremendous job the past two seasons putting fun, exciting football teams on the field. The Tigers may be that kind of team again this year. I think they will be, but nobody can predict that with certainty with so many young starters and the schedule this team is facing.
Auburn will take on one of the toughest schedules I have ever seen. In fact, I believe it is as tough a group of opponents as any Auburn team has faced since we played eight bowl teams in 1983 on the way to winning the SEC Championship. It may be an even more challenging than the 1983 schedule because so many of the tough games on the road this season.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am appealing to Auburn people to support this team win, lose or draw. Don't get down on them if they don't look as pretty as you would like for them to look early in the season. Just keep coming back and keep coming back because you will get to see something beautiful take shape with this team over the next two or three years.
You can't imagine what that kind of support means to those kids. It means a heck of a lot more to have support when you lose, or when you're down, than it does when you are riding high. Everybody is loving on you then. It's when you are down that you need somebody to pick you up, and that's what the fans can do. Over the years I have seen many examples of that happening during a football game, and I have never seen a better example of that than our 1989 victory over Alabama in 1989. The fans were incredibly supportive for that game.
With the 2011 opener just a couple weeks away, Auburn fans need to get ready for a good season and a good time. Let's just make Auburn the best place in the Southeast for our guests to come to watch football games. The way we conduct ourselves we have already a great reputation for hospitality and friendliness so let's don't do anything to tarnish that. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard than anybody else, and I think our folks pretty much do that.
I know I am looking forward to watching Coach Chizik's team get the season started. I think the Tigers have a lot of talented young players. It may happen this year, it may happen next year, it may be the following year, but this group of players they have got at Auburn right now will end up being a special group of kids.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye also writes the Dye-Log and Pat's Picks columns for AUTigers.com.