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Friday Water Cooler: Homecoming

When folks in the future look back around college football in 2009, they're going to see a banner year in attendance. Folks complain about their being so many distractions for college students these days - including those outmoded concepts "homework" and "study" - to explain a decline in attendance, not to mention the availability of college football games on TV. In some ways, it's easier to follow games at home than at the stadium itself.

The average attendance of FCS games in 2009 shows the usual suspects at the top of the list - notably Montana, Appalachian State, Delaware and South Carolina State averaging more than 20,000 fans per game - what's striking is that many of the big "Rivalry Week" games that have yet to be played will probably skew these numbers even higher for schools like Harvard ("The Game"), Richmond ("The Oldest Football Rivalry of the South"), and plenty of others that could be sellouts.

It's poised to be a great year for FCS football attendance. The problem is that many of the Patriot League and Ivy League schools have been left out of the party.

Last weekend, I happened to be in Washington, DC and attended Howard's homecoming game against North Carolina A&T. Heading to Greene Stadium at Howard University, I had no idea what to expect. What I got was a sellout crowd - on a day where there was a 100% chance of thundershowers, featuring two teams that don't have a chance in the MEAC title race.

The bands blared. The halftime shows were awesome. The game - which seemed like it might be an ugly defense-driven game - was actually pretty exciting until NCAT pulled away in the third quarter (and the rains finally came down). It was everything that homecoming should be - ribs roasting behind the stadium, packed with people, and an entertaining game. If the home team had won, and the rains stayed away, it would ahve been perfect.

Conversely, Harvard's homecoming was a well kept secret:

As Princeton’s Ben Bologna kicked off the start of the game, there were zero people in the stands in front of me. Z-E-R-O in all of Section 35—the traditional student section.

This is something I have never seen before in my time at Harvard (and as Saturday marked the 100th game that I’ve cheered for the crimson and white, I’ve seen quite a lot). Sure, some freshman and their parents filed in during the middle of the first quarter, but no fans for the first minutes of the game was a new low for Harvard. making matters even worse: this weekend was Homecoming.

If my estimates are correct (and the brain break crowd at Kirkland dining hall comprises a sufficient sample of the Harvard student body), approximately 60% of you are saying to yourself, “Wait, Harvard has a Homecoming?” Yes we do, and yes, it was this past weekend. Organized by the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA), Homecoming was a complete failure. There were no student-centered events, no flyers, not even a banner at the game that heralded its significance. Unless you were involved with the game or had recently-graduated friends pass on information from the alumni mailing list, Homecoming probably flew right under your radar.


This is par for the course at many Ivy League and Patriot League schools, where homecoming seems about as cool as standing up and humming "Be true to your school". Can anybody tell me when Lehigh's homecoming was? Anyone? Clearly, Lehigh's homecoming was similar to Harvard's: nearly invisible.

On that same topic, there was the following op-ed in the Brown and White that discusses something that's happening at Lehigh that isn't happening elsewhere in FCS: dwindling attendance. Thankfully they describe the Lehigh/Football "relationship" as something worth saving:

Student spirit is always unparalleled during the Lehigh-Lafayette faceoff. Any student will agree: Leh-Laf is the only game that "matters." But any other Lehigh football game has a drastically lower attendance rate and barely there spirit. Although this past weekend's game against Yale University was in accordance with Young Alumni weekend, few students or graduates attended. Even tailgates were slacking.

How is the team supposed to be motivated if no one watches the games? This year's 1-5 start has been - sorry, team - the most unsuccessful beginning to a season since the seniors have been here. Part of this lack of success can certainly be attributed to a lack of student support.
While "lack of student motivation" isn't the reason the team is 1-5 - the editorialist has a point. Attendance is dwindling at Lehigh games - and it flies in the face of the overall trend at FCS schools. Part of that can be attributed to a disappointing won-loss record - but not everything. After all, Howard is 2-5 and is a team that Lehigh should beat handily; yet their homecoming was packed.

Part of the issue has to be that Murray Goodman is on the other side of the Mountain - meaning folks need to drive to and from the games, mostly, and alcohol and vehicles, well, you know that's not a good idea.

Nobody asked me, but I think that one way to get more students at (non-Lafayette) Lehigh games is to offer safe, free, no-questions-asked busing to and from the game. Another is to offer a class sponsored dry tailgate area - with food, non-alcoholic beverages and the like. It would make non-Lafayette games a bigger event.

There's plenty of alumni activities at football games. More student activities at games could be done without a lot of money - and might actually create engaged alumni in the future, too.

*****

With the World Series in town, the Morning Call will not have a full report of the game this weekend and will be offering a reprint of the official recap from Lehigh Athletics. So I'll be writing a more extensive, bigger recap for this blog a lot earlier than usual after the end of the game.

I'll also be Twittering during gametime. More interactivity for this big Lehigh game this weekend.

*****

If you've been following the World Series, you've probably noticed commercials featuring David Spade and the late Chris Farley in Tommy Boy. Apparently some fans thought it a bit morbid that Spade allowed DirectTV to use the movie clip in their ad campaign, where a movie scene happens and then one of the characters uses a point to wax philosophic about the merits of DirectTV's wonderful TV packages. Despite the fact that Farley's family gave the OK to use the clip, Spade felt the need to justify his decision this week to the media.

My thought is that, if this is the sort of thing that needs justification, shouldn't Kim Basinger need to have a press conference too for her Wayne's World 2 commercial? "I, um, got the OK from the surviving family of Dana Carvey's film career, and even Carvey himself emerged from his secure, undisclosed location to say that he was OK with accepting millions from DirectTV, who has a bunch of wonderful packages..."

*****

Here's my picks of the other Patriot League games this week. Last week I went 3-0, and I'm hoping to keep my perfect streak alive. Some of these picks come from my CSN Way column this week.

No. 17 Holy Cross at Fordham. With not one, but two, potential NFL-caliber quarterbacks playing in the Bronx in the form of Holy Cross quarterback Dominic Randolph and Fordham quarterback John Skelton, expect plenty of NFL scouts in the stands at Coffey field this weekend, not to mention scoreboard operators in case the scoreboard gets worn out. While the Rams are out of the playoff race, Fordham is exactly the type of quick-strike offense that can give Holy Cross problems - and they will.

Skeltons Win On Halloween 41, Crusaders Crushed On Halloween 38

Bucknell at Lafayette. Linebacker Michael Schmidlein and the Leopards won’t have any problem with the Bison this weekend - but it might be the margin of victory that propels them back into the Top 25 against this overmatched opponent.

Laughing Leopards 41, Bummed Bison 3

BONUS PICK:

Georgetown at Old Dominion. On the plus side, Georgetown has had two weeks to prepare for the Monarchs. On the negative side, the Monarchs, fattened up on a cupcake schedule, have a lot of confidence, especially at home. ODU, especially at home, is too much.

King of the Cupcakes 28, Princes of Hoyatown 20





Comments

Anonymous said…
As long as these losses continue to be close, Andy will keep his job. Methinks next weekend might not be so "competitive".
Anonymous said…
why would a coach want to beat a team they own big? If you are a smart coach you want to keep the other guy around.
Anonymous said…
as long as the team keeps losing and the fans keep staying away and the student body remains so apathetic -- no, Andy will not keep his job.
Anonymous said…
your not reading between the lines. Coen says this is a young team, (he no longer blames Lembo's players) he brings sophs. and freshmen to the luncheon on Tues. HE will be back!
Anonymous said…
This is exactly why this guy can't win.

He de-moralizes the upper classman, therefore you have no leadershp or sense of team.

He as a terrible record of trust with the kids and seems to be a very poor judge of ability.

He goes with the inexperience i.e. Lum and I can keep going if you want.

And then he throws 1 after the other under thus Bus.

And then says "we are a youg team"

Any ass_ _ _ _ can see through this guys BS.
jhd31 said…
As far as Football, or coaching insight, I have no idea. You know why? because I'm a lehigh student who happens to be under 21.
I'm a junior in the greek system. My house has held consistent tailgates for the past two years, and although there is always that one guy and girl who find a ride home by kickoff, the majority find their way over to the stadium.
Now, maybe it was different in the good old days, but a consistently shitty team mixed with ZERO campus presence, I couldn't name one person in our football program, has made it so the only reason people go to tailgates is to drink. Regardless, this brought people to the game.

However, this past year the administration changed its policy, severely limiting the amount of beer houses could bring/serve (The most i've ever heard allowed into tail gates this year is 4 cases). Furthermore, increased police presence and aggression has made it so that anyone who seems remotely intoxicated is liable to get a citation. You know what this means? Every single person who is either drinking at morning cocktails (we have to do them off campus), or thinking about getting up, says "screw it-I can have a much better time here." So we don't go. I know times have changed, but don't go blaming the student body for lack of attendance-i bet maybe 1 in 5 people could tell you Lehigh's record- because this new apathy is caused by a football team who doesn't promote, or apparently give a shit, and an administration whose only goal seems to be to make sure students never consume any alcohol ever. Think about that when you see Lafayette outnumber us on Nov. 21st, because even though we are at home, I guarantee there will be 2 maroon shirts for every brown one.

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