USF Football was driven into the ground and almost left for dead. It was ruined from the glory days of sellouts, excitement, and national relevance. Blame the firing of Jim Leavitt. Blame Doug Woolard. Blame Judy Genshaft. Blame Skip Holtz. They all get some culpability, so assign it to them in whatever percentages you wish.
But if we're ever going to be good again, people need to be in the stands at games. Especially games against Power 5 conference opponents like Maryland. Because perception is reality, and what recruit is going to want to come here and play in front of more empty seats at the lower bowl of Ray Jay then fans?
18,101 (the actual attendance from the Tampa Sports Authority) to watch the Bulls take on a B1G opponent is pathetic. If that's the true level of support of the program, then we need to just pack it in and go home. That's not nearly enough to sustain a high-level program that can have consistent success. Combined with the 21,945 TSA count for Western Carolina, it's the worst actual attendance for the first two games of a season at USF since they started in playing in a conference in 2003.
If that's the choice the fans want to make, that's fine. We'll still be really good at men's soccer and softball. But if you ever want to compete at the highest levels of football, go to the damn game.
If the folks in charge of shooting down our rising star were still in leadership positions, I'd understand the disaffected wanting to sit home in protest. Sometimes you need to vote with your wallet to effect change, and not buying tickets or making your annual gift is a good way to show you're unsatisfied with the direction of the program. I don't encourage this after one or two bad seasons, but when things are systemically wrong (as they certainly were here in the recent past) it can be ok to check out in support of a larger cause.
I stopped giving money to USF Athletics (except volleyball) as a protest. I didn't buy season tickets either. As much as anyone (remember I've written this website for the last five years), I feel your pain. USF has failed you miserably in the past despite talking non-stop about its promise and potential more times than you can count. And for the past four seasons, football has been a complete and abject failure. Hell, this is Year 18 and they've still never won five conference games in a season! No entity on earth has written more words on that subject than this website.
But if we're ever going to get better, you need to go to the damn game.
I understand a light crowd for a glorified scrimmage against Western Carolina on a Saturday night with a 75 minute lightning delay. That all combines to hurt attendance, and USF not impressing in a five point victory over a bottom-rung FCS team certainly doesn't help the next week either.
But we all we got. No one is coming in to rescue USF Athletics from the bottom-tier; we're going to have to win our way out of this, and attendance has a direct correlation on winning. This is a process, but the Bulls need people need to be there every step of the way.
If you have season tickets, please make sure the tickets get used. There are plenty of folks (or youth groups in the area) that will go to the game if you hand them ducats. Don't just hand them out randomly... make sure they get scanned on Saturdays and someone is in those seats.
"It's too hot" is not a valid excuse. You live in Florida, get over it. Or buy club tickets (which were available in the parking lot before the game for $5 each). We're not getting this turned around until people start showing up. It's that simple.
Also, students: we need to have a talk.
No one sang your praises more than we did after the way you showed up for Western Carolina. Announced student attendance: 6,392.
Me gusta pic.twitter.com/DfZmgZEggc— Brian Many (@brian_many) August 31, 2014
But Saturday, against a much better opponent, was pathetic. Announced student attendance: 3,895.
Student section for USF-Maryland at 2nd half kickoff. We're going to have to have a chat about this, kids. pic.twitter.com/g6LaSxKBSF— Collin Sherwin (@USFCollin) September 6, 2014
Apparently a big factor was fraternity/sorority recruitment is this week. I was a proud Kappa Sigma at USF and served as Vice President of IFC for a year, so I get it. But there must find a way to adjust recruitment around home football games. We used to do this kind of stuff all the time, but somehow and someway that fell off. Part of the blame is on Athletics for not having someone as a direct liaison with the student body (a position that used to exist), but the students have to do a better job here too.
If Greek life is affecting student attendance this much, then I guess we need to be catering to them as well. Do we bring back block seating? I talked to some of the new employees in the Selmon Center this week, and they said if they had known about recruitment they would done whatever it takes to have the Greeks there. They'll let you do bid day at Ray Jay on a game day. They'll have Coach Antigua read the bids. They will do ANYTHING to get you bought in. Take advantage, they're here for you.
The athletic department is under a new regime, and they're doing new things the right way. They're reaching out to students in ways we've never seen before. They understand the next generation of season ticket holders and donors is currently matriculating, and they've got a long-term vision for the program. Students: partner with them. They're finally ready for you.
This is going to be a process. Willie Taggart is going to need some time to improve the product on the field. But he can't do that without people watching while the rebuild happens.
We all we got. Go to the game.