The WVU students weren't able to fill their 12,500 seats against the Huskies – the defending Big East Conference champions – on a wonderful, bright, warm fall afternoon. In fact, just 8,479 students were at the game, according to WVU Athletic Department's Matt Wells. A quick calculation shows that more than 30 percent of the student section was left open, and you could see it all over TV screens across the broadcasting area.
It was a joke. Yet, it continues to happen nearly each week the Mountaineers don't face a top 25 foe or a rival.
There's nothing more than a bad crowd to set me off on a rant. And, that's exactly what happened in the press box prior to the game.
It's an off-week, which gives me ample time to fume over such an embarrassing turnout. There were 56,179 fans at the game Saturday, and those open seats can be credited nearly entirely to students.
It's not just this game or the Bowling Green game before that. This happens all too often at WVU.
According to WVMetroNews prior to the Connecticut game, WVU has distributed an average of 11,553 student tickets per game since 2005, while average student attendance during that same time is 9,341. On average, 19 percent of all student tickets distributed go unused.
What a tradition!
Truly, there's no reason for these seats to go unused. With a seemingly ever-increasing student body and a top 15 football program, students should be online as soon as tickets are available online and lining up outside Milan Puskar Stadium as soon as the gates open.
Mountaineer Maniacs Director Steve Staffileno, in a radio interview earlier this month, said if students continue to fail to show up, something needs to be done. For those who bash the Maniacs, you can stop, because this isn't their issue. They do everything they can to try to fill those 12,500 seats.
It's a fight not worth having anymore. It's time to cut those seats.
Yes, that's the easy fix.
Then, what do you do with those extra 2,000 or so spots in the stadium? The general admission seats haven't been filled in each game, either (yes, they have been filled more often than the student section, but not enough to believe 2,000 more seats would have a butt in them each home game).
For some reason, whatever it's the fact fans can have a better game-watching experience at home in front of their T.V. or it's just too far of a drive or too frequent of a trip to Morgantown, Milan Puskar Stadium can't fill up.
It's a shame, because WVU is a top 15 team that will likely be in the top 10 later this season if everything goes as planned.
Many criticize the system that WVU students go through when requesting tickets, yet there's no real problem. A group each summer takes a look at the student ticket process and discusses options for change. Yet, no change comes, because there's not a suitable alternative.
Instead, there's something different about WVU's fan base compared to some of the greats. In his tenure at the school, head coach Dana Holgorsen has compared West Virginia to fan bases at LSU or Nebraska.
I have no doubt that the passion is there. I've seen it at certain times while covering this team over the last five years. It's not at the consistent level of those two schools, however.
It needs changed, and there are ways to do it.
It may have to start with the culture of the students and its definition of football games at WVU. It's not just a social gathering, and it has nothing to do with the opponent the Mountaineers play.
West Virginia students need to realize they are supposed to be proud of their university and what it's doing athletically and academically.
There's no better way to support your school as a student than coming out to a football game and being passionate.
Then again, the numbers prove, the students aren't that passionate anymore.
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