We just wanted to piggy-back quickly on Kent Youngblood's interesting story today on the lack of student fans at TCF Bank Stadium, particularly for this past Saturday's loss to Illinois. From the story:
What happened to the U's student fans? That's what University of Minnesota Athletic Director Joel Maturi was asking Saturday when the Gophers played host to Illinois at the new on-campus stadium.
When it comes to student attendance, Maturi would like to see a little ski-u-more. The Illinois game, after all, came the week after a stirring victory over Michigan State and was a contest in which the Gophers could have become bowl eligible. "It's disappointing," Maturi said. "It's a situation where [a full, loud student section] helped us against Michigan State, and even Wisconsin, though we lost. Or Air Force. Our students were there; they were there and they were energetic and they were loud. I think that creates a good environment." It's difficult to get a precise read on how full the section is, because many students press toward seats closer to the field, often standing on the risers and on the seats.
But a very large percentage of the seats were not used last week for the game that started 11 a.m. It appears so far during this inaugural season at TCF Bank Stadium that student attendance is higher for games that start later.
The quick answer, as far as we're concerned, is that the early start times probably are a factor. We have no problem getting up at 8 a.m. on a weekend these days. In fact, it's hard for us to sleep much later. That's what happens when you get older, apparently. But when we were 19-22? We could sleep until 11 or noon easily on a weekend.
Point number two: the decision not to allow alcohol in the stadium, for better or worse, definitely plays a role in decisions by students not to attend games. Plenty of students are 21 or older; even those who aren't are crafty enough to find a way to get a couple of beers (we're not saying it's right, just saying that it certainly happens). Many college kids like to drink on the weekend, even at 11 a.m. on a Saturday.
That said, it is disappointing to think that students aren't taking advantage of an opportunity those of us who attended and graduated during the Dome years never had. Outdoor, on-campus football is potentially a great part of the college experience. With AD Joel Maturi already talking about possibly reducing the amount of student seating next year, it would be a shame to see students lose that experience so quickly.