FOLSE: Enough with football already

Let me make one thing perfectly clear before I continue: I was in attendance January 4th, 2004 in the Superdome watching LSU beat Oklahoma 21-14 and was excited to see the Tigers claim their first National Championship in 45 years. <br><br> I realize that football reigns supreme when it comes to sports in the state of Louisiana and the Tigers magical victory over the Sooners will forever be remembered as one of the greatest moments in the history of LSU and in this state.

The question that I have to the Tiger fans is simple: Does anyone care about any of the other sports in Baton Rouge?


In addition to being the home of the best college football team in America, Baton Rouge is also the home to several other competitive and nationally-renowned teams in other sports.


Hey, remember that big round orange ball that bounces?


Despite losing their last two games, John Brady's men's basketball team is 17-6 and 7-5 in the very tough Southeastern Conference. Say what you will about Brady's style of play or Brady himself, his squad has received little or no crowd support throughout the season, breaking the 10,000 mark in actual attendance only twice on the season.


Instead of supporting the basketball program, fans are already starting to worry about when is JaMarcus Russell going to overtake Marcus Randall for the starting quarterback position? We are in the month of February, not August. It's time to take a break from football for a couple of months, at least.


The other round ball team, the one that has been ranked in the Top 20 throughout the season has gotten little or no fan support as well. While the support for women's athletics is a completely different story, the Lady Tigers are 20-5 in the season and 8-3 in by far the toughest conference in America.


Lack of support for the basketball team is not a new thing in Baton Rouge. Tiger fans seem to always show up late and leave early when it comes to their support of the basketball program, even when the football team was not winning national championships. Look at the 1999-2000 squad that won the Southeastern Conference. Fans did not start arriving in droves until after the first couple of conference victories.


While the old adage holds true that "if you win they will come," the thing that I don't understand is people show up for football win, lose, or draw. When LSU was struggling to get 5-6 wins a season under Curley Hallman and in the later years of Gerry DiNardo, LSU still had no trouble getting 60,000 people into Tiger Stadium. Why does the basketball program have to win nearly every game to get a third of that support?


Make all the arguments you want for not coming. The arena stinks, don't like Brady's style of play, not exciting, and don't play anyone. I'm not buying that anymore. Brady's squad has made the post-season three out of the last four seasons, yet they still struggle for support each and every game. LSU fans love to jump on the bandwagon; it is time to show that Baton Rouge may actually be a basketball town.


For the first time in four years, Baton Rouge will be the host site for the first two rounds of the 2004 NCAA Women's Tournament. For $15 ($10 for children) you can go watch three games of terrific women's basketball as the Lady Tigers will begin their journey to the Final Four. Oh yeah, the Final Four this year happens to be in New Orleans. But again does anyone really care?


Let us not forget about the other sports going on right now in TigerTown. How many national championships has Pat Henry's track team won, almost 30!? The LSU Gymnastics squad is ranked in the Top 10 and Yvette Girouard's Softball squad is in the Top 15. If "if you win they will come" holds true, how come these sports struggle for attendance?


The LSU Baseball program is a completely different situation, mainly because Tiger Baseball fans are different from any other sport. Baseball is number one in their hearts regardless of what the football team does. Baseball does lead the nation in attendance every year (paid, that is), but they don't start showing up in droves until the weather heats up.


Over 6,000 fans showed up to welcome football players that won't even play until next season at the annual "Bayou Bash." Even the five-time defending LSU baseball team will struggle to break the 6,000 actual attendance mark until the start of Southeastern Conference play.

In closing, I do fully understand that football is the engine that drives the LSU athletic program, but people must realize that LSU has an athletic program, not just a football team. LSU has proven to have the best football fans in America, let's see if they can come out and support the other sports with the same passion and enthusiasm as well.

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