Gators implore fans to arrive on time for Auburn game

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Florida fans cheer during a game against Tennessee at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Sept. 21. The Gators beat the Volunteers 34-3. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

When it comes to attendance at college football games across the nation, University of Florida athletics director Scott Stricklin and football coach Dan Mullen are well-versed in the issue as of late.

Rather than attribute the recent decrease to any one such issue, the gradual decrease has been tied to a multitude of issues, including but not limited to the rise in entertainment options, ease of access when it comes to viewing the game, and, one of the more likely culprits, the product on the field.

“I think one of the things that you look at is just the options fans have today. With all of the different outlets to see games, that it can make it a little bit more difficult,” Mullen said Monday. “The exciting part of being there is to say you were there. Right? No matter what you do and watch on TV, it’s still really exciting and it’s a lot of fun. But not like being there, you know, when you can feel the noise, when you can feel the energy, when you can feel the excitement.”

For Florida, which boasts a 15-3 record since Mullen arrived in Gainesville, the dip can no longer be tied to the latter; which leaves several possibilities — all of which seemingly fly in the face of the “Florida faithful” designation.

The decline in attendance isn’t unique to Florida, but it’s one that may prove to be the difference Saturday when UF takes the field for its most significant game of the season, if not the Mullen era to date.

In the aftermath of UF’s 38-0 win over Towson — which featured the smallest crowd at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since the 1990 season — Mullen implored Gator fans to arrive early and in droves for the ensuing contest.

He doubled down just two days later, saying Auburn’s return to Gainesville for the first time in 12 seasons should entice those looking to capitalize on an infrequent interdivisional showdown.

“Nobody has seen Auburn in The Swamp since 2007. They’ve seen a lot of teams over and over in The Swamp, but not Auburn since 2007. And so I think that is a big draw that everyone will look at,” Mullen said. “I think for the fans and for the players, to have these games be played more often would be a benefit for everyone. That’s why you want to come to the SEC, to play big games and to play other SEC schools. So I think it would be great for these games to be played more often.”

However, despite all of the valid and vital reasons Mullen presented for a sizable home crowd, he left out the most beneficial aspect of crowd noise: its effect on the opposition.

With a freshman quarterback coming to town in Bo Nix, and in a game that should be decided on the line of scrimmage no less, the Gators have spent the week advocating for a raucous environment come Saturday.

“We need everybody there. That atmosphere, the crowd yelling, crowd screaming, they can’t hear. It’s going to mess them up. We need everybody there,” defensive tackle Kyree Campbell said. “The louder the better.”

Campbell isn’t just blowing smoke — the mentality behind designating Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as “The Swamp” was to create a fearful environment for the opposition. Considering that was anything but the case early against Towson, the Gators are hoping a sold-out stadium will serve as a boost when 3:30 p.m. rolls around.

Yet in case there were any skeptics or non-believers remaining, Campbell left little doubt as to why Florida fans should feel a personal responsibility, if not an obligation, to arrive early for a top-10 match-up: the crowd noise may limit what the opposition can do.

And in a conference contest between undefeated foes, that may more than be enough to prove the difference and keep the Gators undefeated through the first half of the season.

“Offense can’t hear, offense can’t do what they want to do, really they’ve got to go off the silent count,” Campbell said. “I don’t think most people know this but the crowd really does affect the offense. So that’s why I said we need everybody there, we need the atmosphere. Everybody.”


Saturday

Who: No. 7 Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC) vs. No. 10 Florida (5-0, 2-0)

When: 3:30 p.m.

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: CBS

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

24 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Graham. I think people inside the educational system in the USA cannot see clearly what most of us not in the system have no problem seeing. As it relates to the dwindling crowds in athletics, other than costs, there is a 100% direct correlation between reduced crowds and the effeminization/emasculation and gender confusion of the American male. They don’t know what manhood is any more, and football to them is nothing more than a 3 hr long display of “hyper masculine toxicity”. In the moments before a nations collapse, the traits of manhood that establish nations and cause men to fight to protect them, and to be the protectors and warriors they’ve been created to be, disappear as a notion of virtue and nobility, and is replaced with emasculated boys. If this gets me banned, that will partially prove my point. I hope not, because I am a Hogtown native that played football from the age of 5 through 2 years of Buchholz. I love my Gators, and my home town.

    • Huh?

      Man, get your head out of your ass. And then park your bias. Offer some evidence to support your assertion. In the late 1940’s crowds for Football games were frequently small, much less than 1/2 capacity. You gonna go back and tell those guys from the Greatest Generation they were wimps?

      I don’t feel any more or less manly because I attend one or two Gators games a year. Poppycock.

      • Hogtowngator1 might not be right in this specific case, but his concerns for the overall lay of the land are valid. Look how the tightening targeting noose, the push for female football players, and the phony “fairness” egalitarian concerns of the rising NIL debate are all setting up very gloomy near-future prospects for this sport we love.

        • The “push” for female football players is right there next to the “push” for female combat Marines and females going to Ranger School. The push is for the opportunity to compete straight up, nothing more.

          I like going to games but I guess I’m a wimp ’cause I will not buy tickets for a game in September, too damn hot. I’d rather sit on a bar stool. Hell, I have seen every Gator game this year and have not yet stepped into the stadium. 20 years ago I had to beg, borrow, and steal to watch my Gators.

          Wimpiness is not going to kill college football, money is.

        • Females? The huge push is tr-ansgendered, or men in women’s costumes playing in female sports and of course dominating and destroying female athletics wherever they are allowed. Research how many colleges and universities have courses on “toxic masculinity” – for goodnesses sake Gillette lost $8 billion dollars on a national commercial campaign to tell men to stop being men, and they are happy they did it even in the face of the loss. There’s an insidious war on the gender and family construct and especially on men.

          • Yeah, females. That is what Grin stated and what I was responding too. Who even mentioned transgender people?

            We have gotten way too far from what this message board should be about. A much better place for political rants is reddit. I’ll be in my seat on Saturday way before kickoff. Look for me on the Alumni side. I’ll be wearing my pink shirt and tutu and sporting my man-bun.

          • Who are you DAVID to tell anybody what this board should be like. I’ll speak rudely to you like you spoke to him. I guess you are too ignorant to figure out that he was responding directly to the writers comment about what he felt was causing the drop in attanedance at footvball across the nation. I guess you are a wimp if its too hot to sit in a satdium to watch YOUR team which you are supposed to be a fan of. Just so happens he had a lot of truth in what he said. There has been a direct attack on the game of football, so much so that many mothers now will not let their sons play the game; they have to play soccer instead (little do they realize there are a lot of concussions and broken bones and torn cartilage in that game too)! Toxis c masculinity is cousrse work in so many univ. especially in liberal states. There is an all out attack on maculinity. This game was INVENTED for that very purpose in the IVY leagues, to prepare MEN for battle and for leadership in the nation and it got so brutal that it took numerous deaths before the forerunner of the NCAA was formed and President Teddy Roosevelt got involved to change the rules to lessen the death count after he initially declined (because he knew the purpose of the game)!. No Hogtowngator wasnt being political, he was hitting right at the heart of the founding and purpose of football and the attack on it today, which has helped lead to declining popularity and thus attendance! Now put that in your pipe and smoke it!

    • “there is a 100% direct correlation between reduced crowds and the effeminization/emasculation and gender confusion of the American male.”

      Is that an opinion or fact? Please support the statement with some study, link, or paper. Otherwise, people will think you pulled it out of someplace where the sun doesn’t shine.

        • While the articles uses the example of one couple, and makes some generalizations about the differences between generations through surveys, it says nothing about a 100% correlation between anything, let alone any correlation between reduced crowds at football games and the younger generation. That’s not to say there is or isn’t any correlation.

          I’m of the opinion that through the ages, not just just the current two or three living generations, that older generations see the younger generations as having it easier and therefore weaker than they are. I’m sure our parents’ generation, in general, thought the same about us.

          • Our parents generation thought that of us because, in general, there are enough overall traits indicative of that decline in values and character that it was true, Sly. And, we’re the generation that has spawned the cultural mess we now have, as well as making the current generation. In general.

            I’ve survived some pretty difficult periods and conditions, but I certainly didn’t have to sustain it for exceptionally long periods of time and I sure haven’t prospered from it. Hmmmm…Neal, that’s an odd thing to say….what the hell do you mean by that? Just this: Our fathers had to do it twice and with no 12 month rotations out, getting through a major financial depression to boot, came back, dusted themselves off, and built the country into the greatest republic ever known to man. And while they were at it, spoiled us rotten, in general, to the extent that we chased utopian dreams such that we began to tear down the very fabric of what they worked so hard to build. In general.

            There are not enough football comments and posts on here anymore to matter, so we might as well talk about something else occasionally. I defy anybody to tell me not to.

            Ahhh…..the world according to NealyBob. You can thank me later. 😁

    • Hogtown and GatorGrin: I happen to agree, so much as pertains to the MACROissue at hand, but like everything else in this postmodern world we’re in, the MICROlevel is where solutions live….regardless of various notions regarding cause and effect relationships. Would that we could assemble a one over the world factor analysis, inputting every conceivable macro- and micro variable one could possibly come up with, I would be confident that the factors you mention would load quite highly. But that still doesn’t solve the problem other than weights, and isn’t possible anyway. In other words, “True, true, true, but since we can’t solve such cultural problems ourselves, how do we get more butts in seats and on time?”.

      But it does at least warm my heart to know that some other people I respect see it too — as irrelevant as that may be to solving this particular issue in the here and now. Since our pal Sly has weighed in, I, like always, suggest we follow his sage and reasoned advice both above and below.

  2. Sounds like an excellent opportunity for a quid pro quo. Give something away free up to, say 10 minutes, before kickoff. What freebie would compel you (and family) to come early? Water, soda, hot dog, snack, souvenir, money? I purposely left beer out because it’s not widely available at the stadium.

  3. We’ve had this discussion before, but it’s worth repeating because I lean more toward the effects of technology and economics and less toward those of post modern culture.

    First, I’ll go on the record right now to predict the Gators will play in front of a crazy loud, packed house this Saturday because this game will be a “must-be-there” event. You have two undefeated, top-10 teams that haven’t played each other since 2007 being introduced by College Game Day’s 1st visit to Gainesville since 2011. That town will be rockin!

    The economic reality behind the smallest crowd last week since 1990 lies mostly in the fact that students stayed home in droves. Their tickets this season go for $15 a game. A six-game season package goes for $90 + admin fees. An alum can’t buy a ticket for ONE game in advance for the price 30,000 students get a full season’s worth of tickets!

    Students can afford to attend the big game this week and stay home for the boring game last week. Modern technology provides them an air conditioned, 50-YD line seat on a comfortable recliner, in 65” 4K glory, with cold beer in the fridge and an empty restroom down the hall. What’s not to like?

    Back in the later 90’s, when SOS turned the Gators into the most entertaining perennial SEC champs, students could SELL their tickets to any games they didn’t want to attend. Since there are vastly more alums than students, those cheap tickets were always snapped up and the Swamp was packed for every game. I know, I purchased many of those student tickets over the years.

    Then the UA, in their “fair minded,” socialist wisdom, decided to clamp down on all that uncontrolled capitalism and began to require student IDs to enter games with student tickets. Just like that, they reduced attendance to most home games, some by A LOT.

    The good news is the crowds can return if the UA reverses that stupid rule. The bad news is that they’re too arrogant to EVER admit they were wrong.

      • You just confirmed my point Hogtown. You and 20,000 alums (and their families) would be only too happy to relieve unmotivated students of those tickets they aren’t going to use for a once-per-season, or once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the Swamp for a Gator game.

        If UF really wants to see fuller stands, the solution is right there in front of them. All they have to do is GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!

        • Clarification: I meant 20,000 mostly different alums (and their families) every week. UF mints 7,000 to 8,000 new alums every year. On the low side, that means there are at least 300,000 Gator alums living all over the country and only around 50,000 of them have season tickets. That’s a BIG pool of potential buyers for cheap, single-game student area tickets… even to see the Gators destroy another “directional school.”

          They wouldn’t be going for just the game. They’d be going for the experience!

  4. Not much of a prediction since the game is sold out!
    You are exactly correct about the students selling or even giving away their tickets to friends with family that wanted to attend. I went to many games when my niece and nephews attended. Sat in the student section, stood all game and hollered till I was hoarse. The BEST section of the stadium!! bar none! True dat, if they want to assure all the seats are filled, get rid of the Marxist control freak ideology and dump the stupid rule. I had a smart engineering nephew there at the beginning of the rule who Borrowed the student ID’s, knew what gate, when and how to present and slide by without any true ID check. Last game I got to attend with him, just too much hassle to line up the ID’s with the tickets.

    • Daz, except for the opponent fans’ section ALL games in the Swamp are sold out for the season. When discussing poor attendance, I mean fans with tickets in hand showing up disguised as empty seats. It mostly happens in games against directional schools, or Mizzou and Vandy.

      THAT won’t happen for THIS game!

  5. I agree with StlGator. Fans satay home for a variety of reasons but to the alumni, especially those that don’t live in Gainesville anymore, it is an outing to get a hotel or take the camper and go to Gainesville for the weekend. The football game just happens to be the highlight of the weekend. For students, there is texting, hanging with friends, especially in a bar where you can fit as many people in the establishment that it will hold, etc. Much different than when I was a student in 1990.

    I personally enjoy the energy, the high-fives with people in my section that I don’t even know, singing We Are The Boys at the end of the third quarter, etc. but I grew up attending games. Many much younger fans did not or they did when Florida was average. There is less incentive to go to the games. It is a shame because a quiet crowd tends to show up in the players’ performance at times. Here’s to a big and LOUD Gator crowd. Go Gators!

  6. I used to go to the games at least once a season and the pagentry, excitement, energy and all those people in the stands is awesome.
    I can’t go anymore. I’m stuck at home with a big ass TV and all the comforts of home but having been there and experiencing it, I feel like I’m there but I’m in my living room. It’s great!!!