USF played a football game this weekend, but many students probably missed it. That’s because USF played at 11 a.m. Friday, when students were either recovering from a post-Thanksgiving food coma or fighting the crowds looking for Black Friday deals.
This unusual scheduling secured USF TV coverage on ESPN2 for an otherwise unimportant game against Big East opponent Louisville, but it likely cost them their fanbase.
USF struggled to a 34-24 defeat in front of a crowd of 19,115 people, filling less than a third of Raymond James Stadium’s nearly 66,000-seat capacity. The student section, which has free seating for 12,501 USF students, was especially sparse. According to the St. Petersburg Times, it was the smallest crowd USF has seen in more than five years.
USF, which has had more losses this season than in six prior, chose a bad time to schedule the game. Yes, it was on TV, but at a time when people weren’t likely to be watching, and TV coverage showed a largely empty stadium, which can be embarrassing for a team or university.
Attending football games is an important way to show school spirit, but USF can’t blame students who chose to sleep, shop or spend time with their families instead. The team’s previous home game, played on a Saturday afternoon against Miami, saw more than double the attendance of Friday’s game.
The football team needs its fans’ support now more than ever. After a promising start, with USF winning its first four games of the season, the team has lost six of its last seven, securing only one win in Big East play and putting its chances of making a bowl game in jeopardy.
When it comes down to it, the team’s recent failures fall squarely on the shoulders of its players and coaches. A large crowd of cheering fans wouldn’t necessarily have caused USF to win the game, but it had to be disheartening to look up and see rows upon rows of empty bleachers.
The team plays its last conference game Thursday night at 8 against West Virginia, at a time more likely to attract students.
USF fans are willing to attend games and cheer on the Bulls even when they’re losing, but they should only be expected to go so far out of their way to attend games. Though there may have been other reasons for the scheduling choice, the chance to get on TV should not come at the expense of student attendance.