Scoggins: U fans who do show have hope for best

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 30, 2012 - 12:07 PM

The Gophers announced their smallest crowd in TCF Bank Stadium's four-year history Saturday -- 41,062 tickets distributed and even fewer who actually walked through the gates to witness a one-sided 44-28 victory over Purdue.

It's a shame, because freshman quarterback Philip Nelson put on a show in his second start and any opportunity to sit outdoors and watch college football is a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, even as a neutral observer.

Thanks to a gracious sports editor, I stepped out of the press box, attended Saturday's game for the first time as a spectator and accepted invitations to a few tailgate parties of fans who shared their food and thoughts on the program and gameday experience.

That last point remains a sensitive subject as school officials exhaust every conceivable idea to combat sagging attendance. From my perspective, the pregame setup and tailgating opportunities seem suitable for a fun gameday atmosphere. They just need more people and energy to make it truly festive. 

The answer to that, of course, is to achieve success on the field, which is not exactly a news bulletin. Decades of losing football have driven away fringe fans who have found other ways to spend their fall Saturdays. Winning breeds excitement, drives interest and creates a bandwagon effect. That's Jerry Kill's mission. And that's what I heard and felt in many conversations Saturday morning.

10 a.m., Lot 37

Owatonna resident Chris Holm had breakfast burritos on the grill, beverages on ice. A season-ticket holder since 2000, Holm and a group of buddies attend every home game and make one Big Ten road trip each season.

Holm was less than thrilled with the recent decision to cancel a home-and-home series with North Carolina, but not enough to make him stay home. He went to school during the Wacker Era, so he has had his faith tested.

"There's plenty of diehards," he said, "but not enough to make it 50,000 strong every single Saturday."

11 a.m., Gateway Lot

Paul Sommerstad played football at St. Thomas and never attended the U, but he and some friends spent $2,000 on a school bus formerly used to transport prisoners in Faribault and dubbed it the "Killwagon." They make several stops at bars along the way to the stadium to pick up fans.

Their party includes a DJ and usually draws a large crowd. The guest list Saturday included a guy dressed as ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian for Halloween who did a spot-on imitation while holding a microphone.

"We're doing our part to improve the atmosphere and have a good time and bring in more people," Sommerstad said. "I just don't comprehend why more people don't want to come out and socialize."

Noon, Maroon Lot

Brandon Ulstad lives in a Minnesota town named Madison -- "Don't say Wisconsin," he joked -- on the South Dakota border. He makes the three-hour drive for every home game.

"We live where everybody hunts," he said. "People ask me if I hunt. I say, 'No, we get up a 4 o'clock and we go to Gophers games instead of going out and hunting for pheasants. It's the thing I love to do."

He parks in the same spot, a short walk from where the Gophers begin their Victory Walk into the stadium. His spread included an unhealthy but delicious pan of Fruity Pebbles bars, which seemed a bit curious since Ulstad is a dentist.

"They're really good," he said, smiling.

Ulstad owns six season tickets but said he and his wife, Courtney, have trouble finding friends to join them.

"The stadium is awesome," he said. "I want them to win. I want to have fun. I want my kids to have a history of watching them win and do well."

Recent graduates Brandon Walter and Stephen Lyngstad tailgate next to Ulstad. They view gameday atmosphere from a student's perspective and wish tailgating was more affordable to that demographic.

"That's really what Big Ten football is all about," Walter said. "Obviously the game itself is a whole lot of fun, but it's the atmosphere before and after the game as well. You see a lot of times where people come in two hours before game time. That doesn't really build an atmosphere from that standpoint."

1 p.m., Ski-U-Mah Lot

Former Gophers players Ben Utecht, Dan Nystrom and Ron Johnson arrived at the same time and stopped to chat. Utecht attends every home game possible and is scheduled to sing the national anthem this Saturday before the Michigan game. The former NFL tight end sounded particularly disappointed in the dismal student turnout against Purdue.

"You look to that side of the end zone and it's just bare," he said. "We brought the stadium back [on campus] to promote student participation. If I had any challenge, it would be to the students. I can't stress to them enough how important it is to a player. If I could put it in bold letters, we need you. That's how we feel. We need you. Show up, please."

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Michigan 58, Minnesota 0: No need to mention it

    Tuesday October 30, 2012

    The numbers were ugly, but the reality was worse. Michigan's 58-0 rout of the Gophers last October was only the third-biggest in Minnesota history because the Wolverines either lost interest...

  • Gophers fans

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: C. Frias 2 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. De La Rosa 16
San Francisco - WP: S. Romo 4 FINAL
Arizona - LP: A. Reed 2
Boston 1 Top 8th Inning
Pittsburgh 9
Toronto 1 Bottom 7th Inning
Baltimore 5
Washington 1 FINAL
Atlanta 3
Miami 4 Bottom 8th Inning
NY Mets 2
NY Yankees 3 Top 9th Inning
Tampa Bay 2
Cincinnati 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Chicago Cubs 2
Chicago WSox 1 Top 6th Inning
Kansas City 5
Cleveland 2 Top 7th Inning
Houston 0
Detroit 4 Top 5th Inning
Minnesota 3
Milwaukee 0 Bottom 6th Inning
St. Louis 0
Seattle - J. Paxton 9:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Wilson
Texas - D. Holland 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
Philadelphia - C. Hamels 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Countdown to great deals

Bid Sept. 21-29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you support Wednesday's decision to sideline Adrian Peterson again?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close