The Kennesaw State fan base embarrassed itself on a national level last Saturday.
The feeble crowd that came to Fifth Third Bank Stadium to see the Owls beat Wofford in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs would not have filled any of the small Class A high school stadiums in Cobb County.
The announced paid attendance was 3,515. The actual number of spectators may have been half that. It was by far the smallest crowd in program history.
This is for a team that in four years of existence has won two Big South Conference championships and is making its second trip to the FCS quarterfinals. It has won 24 of its last 26 games, and 15 straight at home.
Of the eight playoff games played last weekend, only South Dakota State, which is based in the major metropolitan area of Brookings, S.D., population 22,056, drew a smaller announced crowd. The Jackrabbits played Duquesne in a snow storm, 30 mph winds and drew 3,042.
The other six games averaged 8,660.
Sure, the weather wasn’t perfect, but it’s December in Georgia. There was rain, but the temperature still reached the mid-50s. Yes, Georgia was playing for the SEC championship, but not until two hours later.
Football is an emotional sport. Teams feed off the energy of the crowd, but you left your team hanging. There was no energy in “the Nest.” No noise and few cheers, but there was a whole lot of apathy.
Knowing the conditions weren’t great, the athletic department went out of its way to try to get people to the game. It offered a free tailgate where fans could get free food and drinks before the game.
It also gave free admission to the first 1,000 students. Yet, at kickoff, not counting the band, there were 60 students in the stands — the number was so small it was easy to count. By the end of the first quarter, it may have increased to 150, and didn’t get any bigger.
Unfortunately, this lack of attendance isn’t a one time thing.
The program opened four years ago with a crowd of 9,506 against Edward Waters. Fifth Third Bank Stadium hasn’t seen a crowd nearly that large since. The inaugural season drew an average paid attendance of 8,820. It has dwindled to 6,175 this season, with most of the actual crowds more in the 4,500 range.
How is it the team goes 6-5 in Year 1, 8-3 in Year 2, 12-2 in Year 3 and now 11-1 in Year 4, yet the average crowd size per game continues to get smaller?
It makes me wonder if the third largest university in Georgia deserves a football team, let alone the No. 2 team in the country.
That’s especially true for the students. You are in class with these players. They are your friends, and you have a chance to tell people that you were a fan from the beginning. You have had a chance to be there when the inaugural signing class built the foundation for what could eventually be a championship program.
The team averages 45.7 points per game, is 22-3 all-time at home and has one of the three best players in the country in Chandler Burks, who was made a finalist for the Walter Payton Award — the FCS version of the Heisman Trophy — on Monday.
Instead, you are letting that chance slide by.
The same can be said for the alumni and the surrounding Kennesaw and Cobb County community. Sure, the majority of people said they wanted football at KSU when the exploratory committee first proposed bringing the sport to campus. It would be nice if all those that helped bring it here now backed it up by showing up at the games.
On Saturday, Kennesaw State is going to host South Dakota State with a chance to advance to the FCS final four. The Jackrabbits are from the Missouri Valley Conference, which is considered to be the best in FCS, and it is their third straight trip to the quarterfinals.
It’s the kind of game where a big crowd and a rowdy student section could make a big difference. The athletic department is again doing its part by letting the first 1,000 students in free.
Unless North Dakota State is upset, which is unlikely, this will not only be the final home game of the season, but the final home game for Burks, Darnell Holland, McKenzie Billingslea, Anthony Gore, C.J. Collins, Justin Sumpter and the other seniors that have represented your program so well.
They deserve to be sent off in front of a full house. Too bad you don’t care enough to make it happen.