USF football losing student support

Student attendance hit a season low at Saturday’s game against N.C. State, with only 3,615 students according to USF Athletics.
ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Though USF Athletics has worked tirelessly to fill Raymond James Stadium, those who attended Saturday’s game against N.C. State could see that not even students are coming out to see the Bulls play football.

When the Bulls burst through the fog of the tunnel and entered the field for Week 3, they saw a season-low 3,615 fans in the student section – a number that only decreased as the Bulls went on to finish the game with a 32-point loss.

According to USF Athletics, fewer students have been coming to the games as the season progresses.

While the Bulls’ season opener had a visibly crowded student section of 6,392 and resulted in victory against Western Carolina, the next game against Maryland had about half the turnout, with 3,965 students.

This year’s average actual attendance of 19,540 is the lowest since 2006, according to Tampa Sports Authority.

USF is past the glory days of Jim Leavitt, when the Bulls reached a peak of No. 2 in the nation in 2007, and as USF’s record dips to new lows in recent years, so does its student attendance. According to a national analysis by the Wall Street Journal, USF’s student attendance has sunk 69 percent between 2009, when the 8-5 Bulls averaged 9,100 students per game, and last year, when the 2-10 Bulls averaged 2,784.

“I don’t think during the game we’re really looking over, seeing how many people are in there and how many are not … those things we can’t worry about,” coach Willie Taggart said in response to the low attendance numbers, at Tuesday’s press conference.

Whether it is the team’s recent inability to win, or any number of reasons, students are deciding not to make the trip to Bulls games.

Itay Hashmonay, a sophomore majoring in chemistry, said he used to go to games with friends but now it’s “embarrassing to lose every game.”

Hashmonay said he would rather attend a USF soccer game than a football game.

“Soccer games are a blast,” Hashmonay said. “The team is good, so it’s fun to watch.”

The football team was able to draw in a decent crowd for the opener, but the hope that fans feel has been short lived.

“You look at other schools (such as UF or UCF) compared to ours and they’re packed,” said freshman criminology major Brandon Timmerman. “The first game we have hope, then it’s ruined.”

Some students also cite the distance to the stadium, which is located 11 1/2 miles from campus, as another reason for low attendance. Students either have to drive themselves and pay $15-20 for parking or rely on the Bulls Blitz buses provided by USF. 

This year USF Athletics started new student initiatives to boost attendance such as the Marshall Mayhem pep rally, adding more Bulls Blitz buses to transport students to home games and having discounted parking for Student Bulls Club members.

“Busing is a pain and parking is expensive,” said junior criminal justice major Amar Mohan.

The distance from campus to the stadium seems to be too far for the students to travel when the team is performing at such a low level.

Though a lot of fans have thrown in the towel for this season, there are still some fans that said support is just what the team needs right now.

“You can always say the team needs to get better, but it’s also true that the team needs to be motivated to play …,” junior health sciences major Heather Kopp said. “I think some people think it’s a joke. It’s still your school and you should support your team.”

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