A couple weeks ago I penned an article about why I believed SU football was suffering from poor attendance, and how I believed SU Athletics could help fix that problem. Since that time, the team has visited Southern California and lost, has accepted an invitation to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, and has squeaked by a Toledo team in the Carrier Dome in front of an expectedly small crowd. So, now what?
Thankfully, SUAthletics has made a move in the right direction. Yesterday, an email was sent to all SU students informing them that they can get in free to the Carrier Dome this Saturday for the Big East opener against Rutgers. And to take it farther, those students already holding season tickets get additional perks so as to not let them miss out on free tickets when they've already paid for them.
This is a great move for several reasons. First, if we look at the attendance for the student section over this year's first three home games, we see this: loud, large and in charge for Wake Forest; quite a drop-off for Rhode Island; and even smaller for Toledo. Yeah, that's how it is every year: the students show up for the home opener, then only the die-hards come the rest of the year. But it doesn't have to be that way. Let's face it, college students love free stuff. So that automatically will get some students who may be pleading the poverty line as an excuse to not attend games (what, your parents just can't pay for it?). But no, I get it; money isn't growing on trees, and there are students who have to choose between seeing a football game and shopping at Carousel. Well, now they can do both!
Second, while this game is featured as the Big East Game of the Week, that also puts it at 12pm noon. Not exactly student-friendly. Believe me, I know. But when you have the chance to be a part of something big, and for free, you can make some sacrifices: don't stay out till 4am the night before, get your work done ahead of time, etc. Whatever it takes. As for me, I'll probably be out late Friday night, get up early Saturday and start tailgating around 9am; and I'll power through it. So you students who are 7-11 years younger than me, I'm sure you can do it too.
Third, the athletic department is realizing that a full, loud, and vibrant student section is the key to sparking the rest of the Carrier Dome and, the rest of the community. It's a bit demoralizing to me, sitting in 215 and looking down at a mostly empty student section. This is college athletics. It's about the student-athletes and, by extension, the rest of the student body. If the student body doesn't care about the student-athletes, then why should the rest of the community care? Now, I don't buy into this argument full-heartedly; there's many reasons for the community to care. But for the nay-sayers out there, I'd prefer to patch up any possible crappy arguments they could make with something positive. If the students care about their school, their football team, their fellow Orangemen & Orangewomen, then that's something the rest of the community can latch onto and throw their support that way.
Bottom line is, we're much better off if the school and the students can point at the rest of the empty seats in the Carrier Dome outside of the student section as being the problem, instead of the ones within the student section. Then the athletic department can deal with that issue.
But then I read the initial Post-Standard story this morning featuring quotes from chancellor Nancy Cantor talking about possible ACC home basketball games being played in New York City, and I can't help but make a correlation between poor home attendance and moving those home games. We're already giving up home football games against USC and Notre Dame to play them at MetLife Field ("The New Meadowlands"). No doubt that's football-attendance-related, in addition to the added benefits of possible additional revenue and marketing opportunities playing in/around NYC. I get that. But playing home basketball games in NYC? Yeah, we wouldn't sell out USC or Notre Dame in the Dome for football, but I would bet anything that we sell out the Dome for Duke and UNC basketball. Taking those games away would be such a huge slap in the face to Syracuse, its students, and its fans.
Thank God for Jim Boeheim and Dr. Gross for putting out that fire before it got out of control. Nance the Chance, we learn, was talking about post-season games, pre-season tournaments, and home-and-home series' with teams like St. John's. She wasn't talking about moving ACC conference games to NYC. Right. But hey, at least we're all on the same page now. Maybe someone should talk to Nancy about that. And maybe buy her a real orange shirt. Baby steps.
So you see, this all goes back to attendance. If fans just show up to these games, a lot of these problems go away. We don't have to worry about home games -- in any sport -- being played in a venue outside of Syracuse. And, as an added bonus, the product we pay to see will improve. Increased revenue at the gate/concessions can translate into more money being invested into the program, better facilities which will help with recruiting, and a higher likelihood that a home game against a big-name opponent (and probably more of them) can be played in the Carrier Dome instead of elsewhere. So please, if you can, come to the games. Or, forever hold your peace.