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Thoughts on the smallest home crowd of Friedgen's tenure

(I addressed the attendance issue in my notebook today, but here are some of my thoughts on the issue:)

I circled the Florida International game before the season.

It wasn’t that I found the matchup compelling or thought that the mighty Golden Panthers could knock off Maryland. Rather, it was the game that had all the ingredients for the Terrapins to play a regular season game inside a mostly empty stadium.

And that’s exactly what happened. The announced crowd of 33,254 at Byrd Stadium was the smallest home crowd of Coach Ralph Friedgen’s tenure at his alma mater. Far fewer fans were in the stadium for most of the game. I zipped into and around campus with no resistance.

School officials knew the issues they confronted with this one: a noon kickoff, a sun-baked afternoon, a less-than-stellar opponent, a poor economy and a rebuilding program fresh off a 2-10 season. Coaches and players noticed the empty seats, as did, well, everyone in the press box.

“It [stunk],” wide receiver Torrey Smith said of the attendance. “Hopefully fans will come back to Byrd for the ACC season. We appreciate the fans who were there and do support us.”

“The thing that upset me the most was that so many left at halftime,” defensive lineman A.J. Francis said. “We have some great fans -- we had 5,000 to 10,000 come to Boise, Idaho, to watch us play Nevada [in the 2008 Humanitarian Bowl] – but more than half of the student section left [Saturday]. FIU didn’t have name appeal. But FIU was still a good team.”

That’s a fair point – if you chose to go, why leave early? The heat? It turned out to be a pretty good game overall, right?

“The crowd, we keep winning, they’ll be there,” Friedgen said. “I can rationalize all I want – time of day, temperature – win this week, there will be more next week. Win the following week, there’ll be more the following week. You’ve got to win. “

Season ticket sales have declined for five straight years in College Park, taking about a 17 percent nosedive since last season. It is a struggle to re-energize a fan base that has experienced four losing seasons in the past six years.

Normally, I would say: ‘If you paid money, spent nearly four hours watching the team each Saturday, then yeah, you have a right to criticize the state of the program. But if you were among the many who didn’t show, then keep quiet.’ But I am not going to say that, not given the state of the economy. All that is out the window and I, personally, don’t have any issue with those who didn’t feel like forking over the money for seats. There are cheaper ways to spend the afternoon with the family.

However, I was surprised at the number of no-shows; if you already bought tickets, then why stay home? Out of protest? Do you take issue with the fans who stayed home and did not support the team?

By Eric Prisbell  | September 29, 2010; 8:28 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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Here is a picture of the stadium taken about 5 minutes into the game.

Posted by: DCFanCouncil | September 29, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

I was more concerned about the student section. If nothing else, the students should show up and they didn't.

Posted by: drj09 | September 29, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Over the last 6 years, UMD football has become bad in fact that IF an opposing coach loses to UMD, his job is on the line (ask Clemson)...Boring, predictable, uninspired, outcoached, outhustled football.....the excuses are hilarious! Last year it was the its too sunny and too early (noon)????....

Posted by: TerpfanMA | September 29, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

One day I'll find the time and pull the numbers to prove this, but I've been to pretty much every home game since 2002 and feel I can reasonably make this claim: Ralph is right.

Our fans seem to be incredibly fickle. If we win, the next week we get a decent crowd. If we lose, even if we were expected to lose (like against WVU), and EVEN IF WE PLAY THE NEXT GAME AGAINST A BIG-TIME OPPONENT (like FSU), we get a weak crowd.

Weather means nothing (10 degrees and 40 mph winds against UVA in 2002 comes to mind). Opponent has something to do with it, but not nearly as much as how we did the week before.

Posted by: ICBomber | September 29, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Virgin Fest may have had something to do with students either leaving early or not showing up at all.

The noon start on a swealtering afternoon (at least on the north side of the stadium) along with the less than stellar opponent, didn't help things.

Posted by: Russtinator | September 29, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Can you really blame the economy? The Swamp in Gainsville, Florida, doesn't seem to have an attendance problem.

Posted by: SirPelleas | September 29, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

And the Swamp is a bigger stadium, too.

Posted by: SirPelleas | September 29, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Fans showed for the Cal game which was at noon and it was hotter than last Saturday.

Posted by: Realness1 | September 29, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Here's and idea: Do something about the awful program! The school simply doesn't have a commitment to football. I think it's great that people aren't showing up. Show your disgust. People showing up are not going to get us better players and coaches. It's a talent problem and a coaching problem. But it is also a lack of a commitment to winning by the athletic department and the administration.

Posted by: petecard | September 29, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

ICBomber...I agree. The Cal game was a noon game and really hot, weather means nothing.
The WVU game last week was terrible to watch. I was in Morgantown. Fans watched some of that and didn't make a point to see FIU.

Posted by: DCFanCouncil | September 29, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I hate to admit it but I was one of the many people that left the game at halftime. I've had season tickets for a few years now and I normally never leave early, but we decided to bring my young niece to this game and she just couldn't take the heat. We knew it would be hot but it was worse than expected. I didn't really want to go that early because it was a decent game but sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do.

Posted by: ChampKind | September 29, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

If you take out the loyalists (both basketball and football), and ask the casual fan which of those two sports they follow, I'd guess the overwhelming answer is basketball.

The gameday experience at Byrd is really not amazing or unique to me. The team has not been great since the first half of the fridge era. The crowd really is not into it, and hasn't been for a while. Maybe because they know this team won't be in any meaningful games come December. That's not a great way to be a fan, in my opinion, but it's what I see.

I'd rather a smaller crowd of people who care than a large crowd of people who couldn't care less

Posted by: moo21 | September 29, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Weather means nothing (10 degrees and 40 mph winds against UVA in 2002 comes to mind). Opponent has something to do with it, but not nearly as much as how we did the week before.

Posted by: ICBomber | September 29, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

That was Gtech in 02, the freezing cold UVA game was 03. Both were thursday night espn games...which helps explain why people came out despite the cold.

Posted by: Barno1 | September 29, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Some facts that Eric Prisbell refuses to report:

Pre Ralph 1993-2000: 32,582 average attendance

Post Ralph 2001-2009: 49,187 average attendance

And on a different subject:

Posted by: Barno1 | September 29, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Barno, what is the average attendance for the first 3 years of Ralph compared to the following years?

What is the average attendance for 2009?

Posted by: SirPelleas | September 29, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

This is at least the 3rd straight year that Prisbell has written about Terps attendance. Below is his article about the attendance problems while the Terps were in first place in the ACC in 2008. It's interesting how Prisbell's take on this has dramatically changed over the last 2 years. One need only read the sub-headline: "Crowds Wane While Maryland Stays in ACC Contention." Gee, that is exactly the opposite point he is now making (that it's the team's poor performance and results on the field that are causing the attendance issues).

Posted by: Barno1 | September 29, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I think Barno makes an interesting point. Ralph has certainly attracted a much greater attendance over the years. In fact, Ralph accounts for the second largest single-game attendance in Maryland history, and 22 out of the top 29 of the largest crowds to ever fill Byrd stadium. That's quite an accomplishment for a head coach. You have to give credit where credit is due on this particular issue: that Ralph revived this program.

See for yourselves:

But for Ralph to stay, he has to turn things around, because no one can deny that attendance is in decline.

Posted by: SirPelleas | September 29, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

The students should really be embarrassed. Half of them left after halftime and the game was close. Now, I know it was hot, but you made it out of bed, fought your hangover, and made it to a noontime game. You might as well stay for the second half! As for the low attendance cited by Prisbell: I went to school at UMd in the 90's. That would've been the biggest crowd I saw during my tenure there.

Posted by: aviscardo | September 29, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I've been a season ticket holder since last year. You have to support the team through the good and the bad. And you have to hope that there is more good than bad when it comes to your program. It is that simple.

Posted by: Fry3 | September 29, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Barno, what is the average attendance for the first 3 years of Ralph compared to the following years?

Posted by: SirPelleas | September 29, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

SirPelleas, in 2004 and 2005, while MD's on the field performance was not good (back to back 5-6 seasons) Byrd Stadium nonetheless set back to back average attendance records. In 2006, while the Terps were in first place in their ACC division until the very last game, we lost 2,000 fans per game from the previous year. These are the facts that you don't want to hear.

It's not just the Terps and it's not just football. Attendance is down all across the country, in every sport, at every level (

Its. The. Economy. STUPID.

Posted by: Barno1 | September 29, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Just to clarify, I wasn't calling you stupid,'s just an expression...not that I won't call people stupid from time to time

Posted by: Barno1 | September 29, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Last time I checked, student tickets are free, so I don't think poor attendance can be written off solely on the economy. Plus students are sleeping at noon on saturdays.

We're also living in an era of hd tv's and college/nfl gameday packages that is not comparable to 6-7 years ago.

I think that if terps had beat WV on 9/18 we'd have seen much better attendance against FIU. I know barno would have been there if that was the case.

Posted by: JoeMama11 | September 29, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I would agree with Barno that a lot of this has to do with the economy and the poor matchup and gametime. Before the games were under such stringent ESPN control, all of the non-marquee non-con home games would automatically be scheduled for 6 PM, and those games would be played in a lean 2-45 or faster. Saturday's game didn't even hit halftime until 2:35, and clocked in at nearly 4 hours because of the ESPNU coverage, which always frustrates the home crowd.

Even NFL teams are having trouble selling tickets (the hardest tickets to get in the US), and are only able to sell out because either the community or owners feel the pressure of a looming home television blackout.

Posted by: Russtinator | September 29, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

JoeMama11, you are talking about 2 different things: attendance at a particular game and attendance overall for a season. The economy is the single biggest factor in the overall decline in MD ticket sales over the last several years--it's not even debatable given the numbers. However, the poor attendance at this particular game was more than just the economy, it was as previous mentioned the noon start, the no-name opponent, and the hot temps. Plus the game was on tv for once.

Posted by: Barno1 | September 29, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Not really, the lowest attended game in a decade in endemic of the larger trend- those factors are just an excuse. Noon is a common time for college football. 84 degrees is not hot. And caliber of opponent shouldn't matter if people are passionate about their team. SEC teams sell out spring practices. People just aren't as interested in the terps... it's sad but true.

I don't think the economy is the single biggest factor. Sure it's a factor, but it's not something you can use to write-off a decline in attendance. I think it's appropriate to consider performance as a major factor. Also, the prevalence of at-home sports viewing options and the overall gameday experience as Russinator mentioned.

It's naive to think that those big crowds from 2001-2005 were mostly because people had more expendable income than they do in 2010.

Posted by: JoeMama11 | September 29, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

JoeMama11, of course performance is a factor. Fridge's success in 2001, 02, 03 paved the way for the rejuvenated interest in MD football that is still much better as of today than what it was before he arrived (see aviscardo's comment that last week's crowd would've been the biggest during his time as a student at MD in the 90s. That is a testament to what Fridge has overall done for the program).

However, when attendance is down the past several years in every sport and at every level across the entire country, there is no denying that the economy is playing a major role.

Posted by: Barno1 | September 29, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Playing a role is a bit different than "Its. The. Economy. STUPID." So you acknowledge performance is affecting attendence, then why be disgruntled with Prisbell.

Posted by: JoeMama11 | September 29, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Prisbell wrote a hard news article in the paper--one that gets read by a whole lot more people than this blog--and didn't mention one single word about economic factors playing a role. And he cherry-picked the worst possible game--against a weaker opponent, an early noon start, on a very hot day etc--and then seemed to go out of his way to not mention the economy's role. And never under any circumstances--no matter how many times he writes about MD's attendance--does he ever mention the numbers pre-Friedgen. The articles are very one-sided and it's unfortunate that Prisbell is now contributing, whether intentionally or not, to the negative opinion some fans have of Friedgen.

And while I think it's reasonable to say there are many factors contributing to Saturday's poor showing, I stand by my belief that Byrd will have 40,000+ screaming Terps fans this saturday, and our next home game there will be even more. Bet on it.

Posted by: Barno1 | September 29, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Further evidence of the economy is that the Comcast Center is not sold out of season tickets despite the Terps winning the ACC last season. You couldn't pry these seats out of people's hands even the in 2006 after the first NIT birth, yet back to back years following NCAA tournament appearances see the first time since Gary took over that basketball season tickets have been available. The bottom line is that there are more and more entertainment options vying for a smaller and smaller amount of people's disposable income.

Posted by: Russtinator | September 29, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I'd go to every game if I could, but they keep scheduling them during my kids' soccer games. And they wait until the last minute to announce the times, which makes it really hard to plan ahead.

Posted by: srcog | September 29, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

10 days is last minute?

Posted by: Barno1 | September 30, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Virgin Fest may have had something to do with students either leaving early or not showing up at all.

The noon start on a swealtering afternoon (at least on the north side of the stadium) along with the less than stellar opponent, didn't help things.

Posted by: Russtinator | September 29, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I'd leave early for a Virgin Fest. They're a dying breed (I said breed).

Posted by: buster_c | October 1, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

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