The last report card from this Gamecocks Blog looks at us, the fans. To begin, let’s look at the attendance. Keep in mind Williams-Brice seats 80,250 officially and can hold as many as 85,000.
Discussion: You can’t go far in Columbia without being reminded that South Carolina has the greatest fans in the country. And this isn’t the same puffery that every fan base brags about. Gamecock fans regard this as a fact, and they have proof. They point out that during the 1-10 and 0-11 seasons of 1998 and 1999, they sold out every game. This fact is true, and if it’s evidence of how great South Carolina’s fan base can be, this past season is evidence of how far they fell short of that standard.
Sell outs used to be the standard for Gamecock football, and everyone assumed it was because the fans were so rabid and great. Perhaps we should consider the possibility that the games sold out because it was the cheapest entertainment in town. A few years ago the YES program ended that, and sold out seasons ended with it. The YES program couldn’t have hit at a worse time economically, but if the fans were as rabid as we claim to be, they would have bought up single game tickets from scalpers for prices that often fell below market value.
Attendance at this year’s games was not what is usually expected. There have been excuses galore. A common refrain is that the economy is doing poorly. That may be true, but if we as a fan base are as wonderful as we think we are, there would be more tickets sold. For the Southern Miss game the excuse was that it was a Thursday night game and inconvenient to get there. For the Furman game, it was a I-AA opponent. For Arkansas it was cold. The excuses go on. The second smallest crowd of the season was for senior day against Troy. That’s not exactly the way to honor your seniors. Inexplicably the Tennessee game wasn’t a sell out either.
Georgia, a team considered by many to be our second rival, sold out. Alabama, the number one team, also sold out when Gameday was here. Anyone can sell out those games. Ggood fans fill the seats because their team is playing not because of who the opponent is.
Even when fans did attend games, they often weren’t the force they are capable of being. Too many times fans were lukewarm in their support and less than vocal. The fans relied on the team to get them excited rather than trying to give their team excitement to feed off of. If the fans want to have a top 25 or top 10 team, then they will have to step up and give them a Top 10 atmosphere.
Grade: C-. Before the hate mail begins, let me make a couple of points about this grade. First, the fans are being compared to the best they’ve been: the best games and the best seasons. They’ve set the bar pretty high. Second, it’s not all doom and lecturing; there were some good games (Alabama, Georgia), and there were some good moments in all of the games. Third, the students did a good job most of the year, and that shouldn’t be overlooked. There were good things the fans did, but they could have done more, and that’s where their grade came from.
Glancing Ahead: There’s no reason to believe next year’s atmosphere at Williams-Brice can’t be as good as its ever been. The home schedule features popular opponents, and the fans have a history of creating great atmosphere.
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