New San Jose State football coach Brent Brennan let it be known in his introductory press conference that he wants to see more fans in the stands this coming season.
“Get off the bench, and get in the game,” Brennan called on fans to do, generating applause with that quip.
The reasons for low attendance at San Jose State football games have been analyzed non-stop. They range from competition with other sports and entertainment options nearby, the team’s lack of consistent winning, to lack of marketing. So what can Brennan do to get more fans to “get in the game” in 2017?
1. On-campus outreach to students.
The student section has been a ghost town for most home games this past season. There was a decent crowd in the first half of the home opener against Portland State, but the student section emptied out after halftime. As the losses piled up for the team, the student section became emptier and emptier each home kickoff.
The basketball coaches have already made an example for Brennan to follow. On Wednesday night around 11 p.m., as the King Library was open overnight for students to prepare for final exams, men’s basketball coach Dave Wojcik went on the public address system and called a “30-second timeout” for free coffee and donuts, served courtesy of women’s basketball coach Jamie Craighead and him.
It remains to be seen if this surprise cameo at the library will bring more students in the crowd for Sunday afternoon’s basketball doubleheader, but Brennan can also make on-campus appearances to promote the football program.
From what I remember as a student, an information booth was set up in the opening week of fall semesters to help students find their way around campus. That could be one way Brennan could connect with students on a personal level. The 2017 season opener will be at home and is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 26 against South Florida, three days after classes begin. While the football team will be busy that week preparing for that game, Brennan could possibly find a few hours on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon to volunteer at that booth and hand out football schedule cards to students.
Brennan could also record a video to be played during new student orientations that are held throughout the summer, to promote attendance of football games. I am not sure if any of my ideas will come to reality, but personally connecting with students is a very important way to help boost attendance this coming season.
2. Opening practices.
In the past two seasons, Ron Caragher was restrictive on access to practices. Initially, he only opened practices to credentialed media (yours truly included). Then, members of the media were only allowed to observe warmups and conduct post-practice interviews. It probably makes sense, considering the 4-8 record this past season.
If Brennan wants to create the image that he is confident in the way he is coaching the team, he should have no problems opening even select practices. There are legitimate concerns that information from practices could be leaked to opponents—the recent scandal at Wake Forest comes to mind—but San Jose State already has a safeguard protocol, including a sign-in sheet and prohibitions on using cell phones or cameras while at the practice field.
3. Social media publicity.
In the age when people can easily share their experiences to a worldwide audience with the touch of a button on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, San Jose State can easily generate hype for the football season by filming exciting moments from practice or the spring game and putting them on social media. Oregon State has videos of Brennan in action as wide receivers coach, such as this one from the 2012 spring game:
Former San Jose State and current Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre, under whom Brennan was an assistant at San Jose State in 2010, often has his postgame speeches filmed and published, such as this one after a 41-38 win over Oregon:
Shares of Brennan being “mic’d up” can do leaps and bounds for creating buzz around the program.
4. Most of all: an enthusiastic, engaging personality.
The main issue of the past four years of the Caragher regime was not just the lack of wins but also the image of a shy, secretive head coach. The cringe-worthy remarks like “were we favorites?” or “I’m very pleased we won’t have to face [Keenan Reynolds] again” also embarrassed the program. For these reasons and more, it is very important for Brennan to present himself as a genuine, authentic leader of his program who owns his results and demands nothing but the best from his players. Already in his opening press conference, Brennan gave off much confidence and swag in expressing his vision for Spartan football. Even if the results in 2017 are not what fans want to see, at least a head coach who is a calming, commanding presence on the sidelines and press conferences will reassure fans that things will be better in the future.