The future of the UofL football fan base is among the diehards at Cardinal Stadium (Mike DeZarn).

Louisville diehards know bandwagon fans will be back

Lots of chatter about attendance in the week leading up to the University of Louisville football team’s game against Clemson. Many complaining about Cardinal Stadium not being full, chastising their fellow fans for not showing up. If the complainers are among those showing up for games, they should acknowledge that less than full stadiums do have benefits.

One gets it that larger crowds create a big-game feel. Cardinal Stadium was expanded from 55,600 seats to 60,880 seats at the beginning of the 2019 season. The first game in the expanded stadium was against Notre Dame, the first game under Coach Scott Satterfield.  That game attracted an all-time high of 58,632 fans.  The previous record  of 55,632 was set during a Sept. 17, 2016 game against Florida State. No question whether Cardinal fans will support a winning football program.

The smaller crowds this season are not a concern of this Observer. When one looks around the stadium, one sees people who have been there for years. People who like to win, people who hate to lose. They would never be accused of being bandwagon jumpers. If UofL is playing football they are going to be there. They are probably more comfortable in sparsely attended games. There are numerous advantages for the faithful and fewer hassles with smaller crowds:

— Parking much closer to the stadium.

— More elbow and leg room, no sharing the chair arm with the guy in the next seat.

— Moving around is easier, sometimes to better seats in open seating areas.

— Less getting up and down to accommodate late-arriving fans.

— Fewer people standing in front of you, blocking views on crucial plays.

— Shorter lines at concession stands.

— Escaping the parking lot more quickly after the game.

One doesn’t appreciate the attitude of fans who criticize other fans for not attending games. It’s as if they believe shaming their fellow fans will embarrass them and get them to the stadium. It doesn’t work that way for most people. They are not going to be forced to do anything, especially if people are pointing fingers at them. Many UofL fans are still recovering from the pain of Bobby Petrino’s last season when opponents were scoring an average of 50 points against the Cardinals. Clemson actually beat UofL  77-16 in 2018.

Don’t try to convince the Observer that nightmarish season has not had a lasting impact on Louisville fans. The difference is the diehards don’t desert the program. The bandwagon jumpers, however, will get back on board when things turn around. The belief used to be that Louisville had to consistently pack the stadium if it wanted to be a Power Five program. No longer a concern since UofL joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. Louisville earned its stripes, UofL is in the club and doesn’t have to prove anything or impress anyone.

After four games this season, Louisville football has drawn an average of 39,304 fans per game. That’s with a 3-4 won-lost record. People who show up during less than stellar seasons are the ones the University can count on during good and bad times. Lots of familiar faces, fans always there to support the program. The Observer can remember Louisville averaging 12,663 people per game in 1975.  Compare this year’s numbers to Wake Forest’s, currently in first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference, with an 8-0 record. The Demon Deacons only average 31,400 per game, albeit in a much smaller stadium.

While the diehards may enjoy the advantages of sparse crowds, they would much rather see the stadium packed week after week. But don’t expect them to complain. They know the bandwagon fans will be back when Louisville football is a powerhouse again.

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Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.