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Sunday's Word: 4,659

Usually, the week leading into "The Rivalry" would be spent with a passionate "Sunday's Word" talking about my hatred for all things Maroon, my desire to eat Bornean Clouded Leopard jerky, and making childish (yet anatomically correct) descriptions of the Lafayette fan base.

But something happened this weekend at Murray Goodman stadium this weekend, and it needs to be said. And it's today's "Sunday Word", and needs to be said before witnessing a game that has been sold out for months in Easton.

It's "4,659", Sunday's word.

"4,659" was the announced attendance at Murray Goodman this weekend. "4,659" was the number of fans that came out to honor the seniors in their final game in a Mountain Hawk uniform.

I did some research, and "4,659" is the second-smallest attendance that I could find for a Lehigh football game over the past five years, and very likely the second-smallest attendance in the last ten years.

This year's rain-soaked season opener against a team outside the Northeast, Drake, had an announced attendance of 4,706. Two years ago, the rain-soaked opener against Albany was announced at 4,376 - the smallest attendance number I could find.

But those games were not league games. They were season-openers against out-of-conference opponents. In both cases, there were plenty of games - bigger games - ahead to enjoy on the season.

For league games, this appears to be the smallest home attendance in over a decade. Two years ago, the Bucknell game drew 10,673 - although that was on "Alumni Day" in perfect weather. Last year's Georgetown game was also played in some threatening weather - but that announced attendance was 9,084.

Perhaps a more fair comparison was the 13-10 loss to Holy Cross in 2005 - played in a driving rainstorm. That one, however, had an announced attendance of 5,713.

Maybe the game before "The Rivalry" is always one that suffers attendance-wise. That would make sense: after all, many Lehigh fans, we know, have plans the following week. Yet against Fordham in 2004, Lehigh managed 6,218 fans on a cool, sunny November day. In 2006, Lehigh had 8,692 fans that made the trip to see the Mountain Hawks face off against Fordham. Last weekend, "that school in Easton" had an announced attendance of 7,439 against Holy Cross.

With a stadium capacity of 16,000 fans, "4,659" fannies in the seats meant that the stadium was just a little bit more than 25% full - if that. In contrast, last week's game in Easton's 7,439 fans made Fisher Field, with a capacity of 13,750 fans, more than 50% packed.

The game in Easton had playoff and title implications, and the game in Bethlehem did not, which naturally would spike attendance in Easton. But their attendance was nearly double ours - in the same weather, the same challenges before "The Rivalry", also playing a faraway league opponent.

In fact, there are plenty of ready-made excuses for such a poor attendance. There was a high probability of rain and thundershowers on the afternoon - better off just sitting at home and watching the game on TV if you live in the Lehigh Valley. Besides, Lehigh has their second-straight losing record - why show up for the game? Don't I have something better to do?

I can't say I totally blame fans for not showing up. I was not one of those "4,659", either. I had national stuff to cover and follow, things to do, blah blah blah.

But I look at the attendance, and I'm sad. I'm sad that more people didn't show up and cheer on - and give an ovation to - the Lehigh seniors, who donated four years of their lives to play Division I football. They've suffered a lot. They signed up for a team that gets Patriot League championships and playoff invites, not .500 team. They signed up for a team that beats "that school in Easton" every once in a while.

They didn't get that. They did, happily, get a win, and were able to close out their Murray Goodman careers on a positive note.

Maybe it will be all forgotten with a win this weeknd, and a standing ovation for the Lehigh seniors, win or lose, by the many Lehigh fans at Fisher field this weekend.

But it's not fair that the see off their football careers off at home in front of a cozy audience of "4,659".


Anonymous said…
Bwahahaha.... i recall when this blog was nothing but unbridled enthusiasm.
Lafayette 24 Lehigh 7
Anonymous said…
Do you think the fact that there was 80% chance of thunderstorms predicted for the entire afternoon had anything to do with the attendance??? I do!!
Lehigh74 said…
Chuck, I think the attendance had everything to do with a weather forecast calling for rain all day. I already sat in the rain to watch three games this year and decided not to make it four.
Doug H said…
my question is... based on the mediocre attendance this season.... is Lehigh still number 1 in attendance in the PL????? It is pretty easy for a student to sit back in his dorm or frat house and watch the game live these days.... In the old days of Taylor, everyone came down the hill and went to the home games... it was easy and if you only had time for half the game, it's not like you had to drive to the stadium.. Certainly Taylor was an old place with none of the stadium niceness of Goodman but for students it was great.... And now there is a wonderful business college building and arts center on the main campus.... I could see it the previous family day weekend when the attendance was only around 10K... Just a few years ago, it would have been 30% higher....

The fans would come out if the game mattered.... as it was, without the spike from alumni events or parents, this may be the normal Lehigh attendance until there is a reason for outsiders to want to come...

I also think the pitiful following from visitors doesn't help.. it seems to me when I watch away games that Lehigh fans follow their team better...
Anonymous said…
The way Lehigh stuck it to their alumni by denying them tickets to the Lafayette game has created a lot of resentment.

They tried to strong arm us into buying season tickets as the only way to get the Lafayette tickets.

Why should we watch the Bucknell game, if we are denied the game we truly want to see?

Perhaps, if the attendence suffers enough, they will rethink how they treat their alumni.
Lehigh74 said…
Your comment is ridiculous. The administration never said you couldn't have a seat unless you bought season tickets. What they said is that the only way you would be guaranteed a seat is if you bought season tickets. Fisher Field holds 13,000 and Lehigh gets a limited number of seats. Quite logically they give first preference to season ticket holders and second preference to alumni you contribute to the athletic partnership and/or Asa Packer Society members. If you ran the university you would do it the exact same way.
Anonymous said…
Spoken like someone who comes from family money. Their elistist arrogance always shines through.

Just because you do not agree, does not make it wrong. This is the first time in 20+ years, they changed the way they distributed tickets.

Plus they are secretive about how they give out the tickets. Try be honest with the alumni. They never will admit how they distribute the tickets. Since my yearly donation does not rank high enough to warrant tickets, I will decline to contribute anymore money ot my time volunteering. Let the Asa Packer members step up! I hope the stock market downturn did not ruin the donations for next year.
ngineer said…
I agree whole heartedly. If you support the team, buy a season ticket if you don't want to be left out come Lafayette. It's not punishment for those who do not buy a season ticket, but reward for those who do.
As for attendance, I know the big dire threat of thunderstorms and ran held down a lot of attnedance. Probably would have been closer to 8-9,000 on a good weather day...guess that's why they call 'em "Fair weather fans!"
Lehigh still leads the PL in attendance. Our road following is unparalleled in in PL. At places like Georgetown and Bucknell, we equal or exceed the home crowd.
Student attendance is what bothers me. The University has harassed the students regarding tailgating to the point that they don't bother coming over. Something has to change.
Anonymous said…
Student attendance has been poor for many years now and they reward them with more Lafayette tickets this year for their mediocre support. As for tailgating, that is what the majority of the students are interested in doing. They could care less about the game itself.

Its the Alumni who drive the yearly attendence and Lehigh has done a good job alienating them this year. I also know many fellow alumni who do not live close enough to attend every game and felt they were being pressured into buying tickets they would not use and could not give away.

It is a perfect example of a penny rich and a dollar folish. Real short term thinking by the administration.
Anonymous said…
The Lafayette game ticket policy had very little to do with it. The weather had a bit to do with it, the economy a bit as well. The biggest reason for the poor attendance has to do with the intelligence of the fan base at LU. More than a few fans finally hit the wall and were tired of seeing LU find unique ways to lose winnable games during the Coen era. The other factors sealed the deal for a meaningless PL tilt before the big one. I do feel sorry for the Seniors, but many fans in their who stayed away lost track of the significance. The seniors should show them and all LU fans what they are made of this week.

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