Written by: Lydia Knoll (@lydknollFB)
Indiana, coming off a 2-0 start to the season, has big aspirations for the rest of this fall. After the progress they’ve made in the last three years to rebuild the football program, it was encouraging to finally make it to a bowl game at the end of last season. This year’s recruiting class, being one of the best that IU has ever seen, provides a lot of potential and excitement for the future of this team. However, as sophomore Jacob Robinson said earlier this week, “We’ve played great these last two games but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. We’re never satisfied.” The team will be consistently working to improve, but Coach Kevin Wilson has another area of improvement in mind: the fans.
Last year, University of Michigan ranked number one in Big Ten game attendance with an average of 110,168 fans per game with an enrollment of 42,716 students. Indiana University had an average of 44,314 fans while simultaneously having an enrollment of 49,927 students. While I am not disregarding the differences in the football programs and stadium capacities themselves, one has to wonder why such a deficit appears between the Hoosier football attendance and other Big Ten schools, meanwhile basketball attendance is ranked eighth in the entire nation. So I decided to find out for myself.
According to IU students, it’s quite common for the fans to attend the game but then to leave early. Some reasons for this include intoxication, exhaustion, and boredom. Many people claimed that they get tired of watching a super long game, or they get hungry and decide to leave to get food rather than paying for expensive concessions. While these reasons are understandable, they also apply to all the other Big Ten schools. Which leaves one lone explanation… the success of the football team. Several students claimed that they stay for the entire game while Indiana is winning or if it’s a close game; it was unanimously decided that if Indiana had a better football record then more fans would come and stay for the games.
All of this begs the “chicken and egg” question… what comes first? What if the football team would achieve a better record if they had a better fan base there to cheer them on and encourage them? In Indiana’s game against Ball State, where the team gave up a 30-0 lead to finish the game 30-20, the lack of support in the fourth quarter was disheartening. At Monday’s press conference, Coach Kevin Wilson drew the comparison between his team and fan dedication saying, “We played like our fans and left in the fourth quarter...”
If the players’ performances can be influenced by the attendees of the game, then in order for the fans to get the better games (games against top-10 opponents) they want to watch, their attendance is crucial at the less prestigious match-ups (non-conference games against MAC opponents). The two go hand-in-hand, but Coach Kevin Wilson also recognized that fans aren’t going to come and cheer if the team doesn’t perform. He told media on Monday, “The great thing about the home crowd is the energy of the fans, and you love to have second half energy. And at the same time, the football team has to create it. The fans aren’t going to cheer if you don’t make plays.” While this is true, it still requires fans to be present at the game when the team does make those big plays. Whether that means the Hoosiers are the chicken or the egg is a circular debate that can only be solved by simply remaining in your seat until the final gun.
Indiana University has the student enrollment, and it has the facilities (with more on the way) to be a better football program than it has been. After last season, I am confident that Coach Kevin Wilson is building a program that soon will be competitive with every other school in the Big Ten, including in regards to game attendance. Hopefully, the fan base saw these comments as a challenge to live up to.
So show up and stay put Hoosier fans, Indiana football is counting on you.
We would like to hear from you, the fans, about what Coach WIlson said on Monday. Did you like his comments? Were they necessary? Why do you think fans leave early and what is the solution? Please leave you answer below in the comments section.