Attendance Problems Should Not Be Focus After Win

Coming off of one of the biggest thumpings dished out by the Mountaineers in the series with the Orangemen, I expected the discussions to center around the game.

The Mountaineer defense dominated Syracuse on Saturday. Were it not for some questionable officiating, the Syracuse offense may not have even crossed the 50-yard line.

The WVU offense marched up and down the field on the Orangemen seemingly at will. Once again, the biggest deterrent to the attack was the penalty. Poor officiating could have certainly been the hot topic of discussion, especially with the history of this series. But WVU hadn't beaten the Orange since before Clinton discovered the secondary usage of the cigar. The convincing win certainly had to have smiles on the faces of the faithful.

But no, the game was secondary to recent discussions. The attendance is the hot topic. Where are the fans? Why can they not come out and see good football? What does it take to get fans to come out?

Well, while I am certainly not here to state that Saturday's crowd was anywhere close to decent, I think some things should be pointed out.

First, Mountaineer Field officially seats 63,500. WVU routinely allots 5,000 seats to the visitors, and the students have at least 11,000 seats. Before we get into the fans who didn't show up, lets point out a couple of things.

* Noon starts are horrible for Mountaineer Fans. Sure, tailgating has something to do with it, but that isn't the real story. I would be willing to bet that at least half of the crowd at every Mountaineer game comes from at least an hour away, and half of that from two hours or more. It is a pretty rough task to get up early enough to leave from Charleston, or further south, and get any tailgating done, much less get to the game in time to see the band.

That said, I do it every week, no matter when the game starts.

* Television plays a large role in poor attendance. It is not only a trend in Morgantown. It is a nationwide trend.

* Weather also plays a role. Call people fair weather all you want, but you try bringing a young child to a game when it is raining and the wind is blowing, and it is cold.

OK, we have covered all the built-in excuses. Now for some observations.

First, most people should realize that the Syracuse crowd that everyone is complaining about is still larger than the largest crowd ever in Old Mountaineer Field.

Second, when the visiting team brings less than a hundred people, attendance drops by four thousand people. Syracuse fans aren't known for travelling, but htere are usually two to three thousand at Mountaineer Field. This time, you could count them by hand.

Third, when only three thousand students show up, attendance drops by another eight thousand people.

Those things alone mean that if every other seat in the building were sold, the crowd could only be 51,500. Considering that the crowd at announced at 45,000+, I don't think I am too upset with that.

You can't expect people to drive from all over every week. It just doesn't happen. It doesn't make people "fair weather" if they don't come to every game. People have lives that don't correspond with college football. Kids have year round soccer. There is youth football, girls have soccer and volleyball and boys and girls have cross country to take up their fall days.

If there should be any criticism of attendance it should be at the students. I don't really want to chime in on the students, because they have done a pretty good job filling their seats this season. But they sure as heck weren't there on Saturday against one of our oldest rivals. I don't care that Syracuse isn't any good this year. We should have been licking our chops at the idea of throttling those guys.

Weather and game time should not have any factor on whether students show up for games. There are plenty of easy ways to get to the stadium from anywhere on either campus for the students. The school is providing a new "pit" for parties. The Pit isn't perfect, but it is better than nothing. And if you can't make it in to get a couple of hours sleep before you need to get up before the game, you get no sympathy from me.

I can honestly say I haven't had more than four hours of sleep on a Friday before a game this year. I could name you a list of several people who I see out at the local Morgantown watering holes who come from all over, and stay out until the cows come home, and find a way to slink over to Mountaineer Field on Saturday.

I have but one final thing to say.

We are playing the number one team in the country this Saturday. They are the defending national champions. They are the odds-on favorite to win it again. The national media says they don't have another tough game until they hit Blacksburg in December. The pundits give WVU no chance.

WVU is 5-2. We have done nothing but destroy all the teams we were supposed to beat. We got thumped by Maryland, and took a good beating from Wisconsin. We have won two more games than we did all of last year, and need one more win to qualify for a bowl. The weather is going to be cold, possibly with some rain.

WVU needs a loud and rowdy crowd on Saturday. It starts and ends with the students. The students making noise not only fires up the football team, it fires up the rest of the crowd.

Get out of bed, get your gold gear on, and get in the stands. If you leave with a voice, you haven't done your job.

And we can still tailgate after the game. Come out, support the team and have a good time. See you there.

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