Oct 31 / Rob

Guest Blogger: Increasing Student Interest in JMU Football

JMUSB Reader Devon came closest to predicting the final score of JMU’s win over Georgia State. As a result he is our guest blogger for the week. Here are his ideas for rallying student support for JMU football.

First of all, I would like to thank Rob and Todd for all of their insight and analysis you simply cant find anywhere else for JMU Sports, it is a joy reading your blog and I check it religiously.

As a graduating senior, coming here in 2009, I have not seen JMU Football live up to it’s potential, and each and every year I have seen students become less and less involved with football games. When I first came here, there was no “preordering tickets” for football games, you just showed up, and if you weren’t there at least an hour before game time, there was no way you were getting inside. Even when they moved to the online system you had to reserve tickets the first day they were available. Now students can pick up tickets on game day and not have to think twice about it…it’s pathetic. The lack of support our team gets from the students is depressing, there were far too many empty seats for the GSU game, which sadly turned out to be a good (or at least a close) game.   But how do we fix this? How can JMU take steps to get students more involved? Below are my thoughts from a student perspective:

1. STOP playing teams like Alcorn St and St. Francis…especially to start out a season. No one cares about these teams, let alone knows anything about these schools. It’s almost painful to watch a 55-7 game, no matter who you are rooting for. Also, what does it prove come playoff time? Nothing. Play teams that are beatable but still a challenge that the fine people deciding the at large teams for the playoffs will pay attention to.

2. Going back to my last point, replace these games with App State or at least Liberty. Coming into college, I was so excited to hate App State, yet I have not had the opportunity to go to an App State game. Liberty is dying to have a rivalry with us, and I say we let it happen. These teams can get students excited, and students are more likely to stay for an entire game if we can play out of conference games that are meaningful, and create rivalries with them.

3. Start making tackles and live up to the potential this team has…Look, we all know this team has talent on both sides of the ball, yet in my three years so far we have gone 6-5 twice and 7-4, without a home playoff game. There are very few students left here that saw the playoff run of 2008, so the ones left are used to mediocrity and choose to sit around at home watching FBS games instead of actually attending a game that their school is involved in, this team needs to get people excited again, and soon.

4. Have as many 3:30 games as possible. Let’s be honest, a lot of students sleep in past noon, and are itching to start drinking by 8:30. A 3:30 game is the most student friendly, even if this only keeps the non-enthusiastic students, having them in a seat is far better than our football team having to look at empty bleachers in the student section.

5. Eventually make the jump to FBS. Look, I know that there are a lot of negatives to this idea, but think about it. There are more people that have heard of the Sun Belt then there are the CAA. A move to the FBS would put JMU on the map and can at least become more of a household name at the FBS level than the FCS. Even as much as I love the idea of playoffs, playing higher level teams will attract fans to games, and that is something that JMU needs as the newness of Bridgeforth is wearing off.

JMU has a great tradition of football, and sadly many students are missing it. Nothing beats Game Day, especially when it’s free. As a senior, I regret missing the few games I did, even if it was for work. These 4 years are the best of your life, but if you refuse to take advantage of each and every moment in your college career, you will regret it. I am still kicking myself for choosing to go back home to Roanoke on the weekend of the VT game. I advise all students to take advantage of every opportunity they have to go to games, as you never know when you are going to miss that once in a lifetime moment.

Photo courtesy of epicsnapshots.com


22 Comments

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  1. 2004Duke / Oct 31 2012

    “yet in my three years so far we have gone 6-5 twice and 7-4, without a home playoff game. There are very few students left here that saw the playoff run of 2008, so the ones left are used to mediocrity ”

    You raise an excellent point that I had never thought of. You won’t remember this (thank God), but when I was a freshman, we SUCKED and there were like zero students in our tiny-ass, open endzone, 1980’s astroturfed stadium.

    Please, please, please don’t make us go back to that. Maybe the fact we are on the verge of losing an entire generation of young soon-to-be alumni is the reason why I feel like I’ve been kicked in the nuts every postseason eventhough we have a winning record. To your point, it may also have to do that 6-5 includes at least 2 “wins” over non-conference cupcakes.

  2. SunChase / Oct 31 2012

    I am also a graduating senior, entered in 2009, and Devon could not be more correct. I have felt ever single one of these emotions and it kills me. I don’t think I’ve missed a home game in years, and I don’t understand why there aren’t more people that can say the same. It’s not like there’s a lack of football-crazed guys at JMU. (in fairness, there are plenty of football-crazed girls too, but in my experience the girls are more interested in the atmosphere, and the guys are more interested in the game.)

    Not to go all psychology here, but I think it’s the ticketing changes made. When I was younger, tickets went up for grabs 12 days before a game, so two Mondays before. If it was a big game and you waited til Wednesday or Thursday (9/10 days before), then GOOD LUCK getting into that game. The advance time required to get a ticket made people emotionally invested in the game, and they weren’t about to just leave if, I don’t know, there’s two minutes left in regulation in a tie game against an in-state rival. Just as a completely hypothetical example.

    Now, as Devon pointed out, you can literally print off a ticket 30 minutes before the game (I did it for Alcorn, so trust me I know) and roll up to Bridgeforth. It makes sense to get more students into the game, but it’s taking away that sense of attachment and pride for getting a football ticket. And that’s damaging.

  3. season tkter / Oct 31 2012

    Very good points from a student fan. Im an ole grad and my multiple young adult JMU grad kids point out that students are A) restricted from participating in the proper methods of the tailgate event and B) leaving the stadium at halftime to use their punches before D/E Hall closes. ( a 1:30 or 2 PM start time may not be so bad or they can use a punch inside the stadium for food). C) they say that all of the Fraternities and Sororities hold recruiting events on fall Saturdays. (competing events)

    …………perhaps the assumption is that students need to fill the stadium before there is any consideration to FBS (and the season ticket holders need to make more noise)

  4. JMUDuke2006 / Oct 31 2012

    My wife and I live in Roanoke and are alums class of 06, 05 respectively and I couldnt agree with the poster more. We make every single home game we possibly can and have made more than our fair share of games on no sleep, being sick, etc—JMU is just a part of who we are and couldnt imagine life without supporting it. It is so embarassing to have what I feel is, without a shadow of a doubt, the nicest stadium in the state of Virginia and see empty seats throughout.
    I still remember my freshman year, 2002, JMU/WM, an OT game that probably only had a couple thousand fans withering the painful windy cold, with the annoying AstroTurf and the old stadium…AND THAT PLACE WAS ROCKING as we supported the Dukes to victory. There was none of this “just get loud on big third downs” nonsense—that place was rocking the whole game because it was a great instate rival with classic football spirit.
    JMU was 4 of the best years of my life and I cant imagine missing a game because I was worried about the timing of my punches and if that is an underlying factor is pathetic. Also agree to get rid of 12p/1p games and go to more 4p and night games. Night games in the old stadium were always my favorite and had an extra sense of school spirit, especially in November. I had 50 yard line seats at JMU/VT and I felt there was a lot of great energy that game from the Good Guys, even before the game got really good, so I know its there. JMU/Villanova last second win, Scotty M. punt return for a win vs Richmond, National Championship, App State comeback in third quarter—there’s so much history at JMU football to be proud of.
    My JMU season tix are 50 yard line Row A and we’ve been to every game with the exception of Ga state and the row hasnt been completely full once. 50 yard line Row A seats.

  5. Sean / Oct 31 2012

    I think the FBS recognition isn’t excess still true. Do you think people know more about App State and JMU nationally or Troy and Arkansas Little Rock. I’ll tell you it’s App and Us because of our upsets. Going FBS also comes with the possibility of losing seasons against no name teams. People come now because they expect us to win against teams they recognize like W&M and Richmond.

    And let’s be a little more reasonable, we still have more than 7,000 students per game this year. Do you know how many FBS schools dream of numbers like that? Duke, UVA and Maryland off the top of my head. My issue isn’t How many come, it’s how many stay.

  6. Shady_P / Oct 31 2012

    I completely agree with Sean – It is the mass exodus during Halftime and thru the 3rd quarter that aggravates me more than anything from both Students and season ticket holders. I stepped out to use the bathroom with about 10 minutes against GSU and thought I was going to get trampled to death so many folks were leaving.

  7. JMUMRD11 / Oct 31 2012

    I agree with most everything said. I think a lot of it has to do with the teams we play, plus the fact that our team is good, but they are not exciting to watch. This year, different from the past two years, we are winning..but every time we win, I feel like we lost…Does anyone else feel that way? There are combacks, close victories, the only time I felt like JMU football was exciting was the second Birdsong took the field at Richmond, but because we lost all I can think of is how we shouldn’t have been losing in the first place.

  8. Oreef / Oct 31 2012

    I really appreciate the fact that people realize that we have several problems on gameday. I am also a senior this year, being here since 2009, and have taken note of the unique game experience we have here at JMU. I also have season tickets, so I have the opportunity to see the student section from a good vantage point, which I believe allows me to make a good assertion about our “gameday atmosphere.”

    You have to give people INCENTIVE to go, and STAY, at these games. You can do this by three ways: playing attractive opponents, having a great team, or creating a great gameday experience.

    I would argue that of these three components, we do not fulfill any among them. We are in the CAA, so “attractive” opponents goes out the window. The “CAA is the SEC of the FCS” is a joke in itself. However, we can still have a great gameday experience without making the move to the FBS.

    Having a great team: the last great team we had was in 2008. Obviously, this component is difficult to have year after year.

    Creating a great gameday experience: First let me tell you why our gameday experience is laughable.
    1. Tailgating scene among students is weak.
    2. Our playcalling makes spectators want to pull their hair out
    3. The Stadium is quiet: the only time the stadium is loud is when games get exciting. Otherwise, watching a JMU game is no more than a glorified high school game atmosphere.

    Solutions:
    1. Have tailgating activities, get the University Program Board to book a band on a section of Godwin Field for big weekends(there is plenty of room without sacrificing tailgate spots); give the students reason to come out in numbers.

    2. Increase the party atmosphere in the stadium. Crank music out of the new speakers in the stadium between plays, during timeouts, before the team runs out the tunnel, and before kickoffs. This seems trivial, but next time you are at a game, take note of how quiet it is during these moments. The only time we do this is on third down, when you hear the intro to “Hells Bells.” Anyone that has ever played a sport knows how important that “Warm-up” mix was to getting you pumped up for a game. This concept transcends to fans. There is a reason why Tech plays “Enter Sandman” as an intro: it sets the tone for the game.

    3. This goes off #2: Do not allow the Band to be the only source of entertainment. I know the Marching Royal Dukes are a great college band, and I value their role at our school. However, I am somewhat tired of hearing the same exact lineup of songs, game after game, year after year. Anyone that pays an ounce of attention can say the same. Turn up those brand new speakers in Bridgeforth and give the stadium an edge.

    4. Give the gameday experience an identity: Lane Stadium jumps up and down to Enter Sandman, Scott Stadium at UVA fills with sundresses and ties, Bryant-Denny at BAMA fills with 100,000 people singing “Sweet Home Alabama.” Ole Miss has “The Grove.” Clemson touches Howard’s Rock then charges down the hill into the stadium. And..we have streamers.

    If I was a betting man, I would be inclined to say that creating this fun, party-like atmosphere, would keep people in the stadium.

  9. Sean / Oct 31 2012

    Oreef, it’s a little frustrating to hear you talk about lack of Student tailgating. As an SDC Exec, we have a tailgate every game at Godwin Field. Make sure to stop by on Nov 17.

    And I do think Richmond and William and Marg are more attractive than you think. People have friends at these schools an love to beat them. I’d rather play them then Miami OH, Kent State, Akron or Northern Illinois as our conference games every year.

  10. Oreef / Oct 31 2012

    Sean- I appreciate your role as a Student Duke Club Executive. Maybe you can help us improve our game day experience.

    In terms of attractive opponents, I was simply trying to illustrate that making the move to FBS is not a neccisity to improve our game day experience. As you point out, potential in-conference opponents are not much better. My main point is that we can do things immediately to better our atmosphere, whereas a drastic change in opponents (conference realignment) would demand a longer period of time to take effect.

    As for Student tailgating, I do believe it is a bit weak. I also have a tailgate spot on Godwin field, going on two seasons now, so I can speak directly to the dull atmosphere of which I previously mentioned.

  11. Drake / Oct 31 2012

    I agree with the lack of student tailgating. I think that has to do with the big parking lots being changed. I’m an ’09 grad and I remember tailgating in the baseball lot. We did it big for the App State game, parked my own vehicle, and didn’t have to pay a cent to park there. Now, if you are a student, it seems you have to know a season ticket holder/big donor to go and tailgate. Even when I was there, students were noticeably late coming to the games, and they would leave early. The majority seem to be more interested in getting wasted than coming to the game. The students make the atmosphere better, its not all their fault. The “other side” doesn’t do their part to be loud. Maybe its not wanting a sore throat on Monday, thinking they are at a golf course, or just to lazy to stand up. But collectively, as a crowd and community, everyone needs to yell and jump and stand up the ENTIRE game. Seats are for wimps. Cup your hands, place them around your mouth and just repeat after me “Hiyoooooooooooooo”.

  12. Rob / Oct 31 2012

    Regarding student tailgating, didn’t they kick the students out of the old baseball lot a few years ago? The SDC has done a lot of great work and deserves a ton of credit, but the students got dealt a rough blow when the re-shuffled the parking lots.

    And I completely agree with Sean about W&M and Richmond being more attractive opponents than a lot of lower tier FBS schools.

  13. JMUMRD11 / Oct 31 2012

    As an MRD Alum, I completely agree with you Oreef. We have one of the best college bands in the country and the administration is not using it to its full potential. I know a lot of work and logistics goes into every part of what the MRDs do, trust me, I was one, but the fact that the shows are IMO boring and downright awful, plus they only play four songs (including when our offense is at the line, which I DESPISE..) PLUS it took them 2 months two learn a “full” show, plus one song from another show..My fiancee and I love JMU and love the band, but the W&M game I got up to go pee during halftime because for the fourth game in the row, they did the same boring halftime show. We love our friends still in band, but do not blame them..I just don’t feel like it’s gameday, partly bc of the band and the mediocre leadership.

  14. JMUMRD11 / Oct 31 2012

    And might I add that Scott Rikkers has done a phenomenal job with the band, and I don’t mean disrespect that, but I want to hear new stand tunes! (they aren’t that hard to learn or rehearse)

  15. M@ / Oct 31 2012

    Good post.

    That’s all, just “Good post”.

  16. JMUDRU / Oct 31 2012

    Yeah the student tailgate scene used to occur in baseball and hillside lots. It seems like right after I graduated (’09) is when they changed it because I remember coming back and wondering where everyone went. The convo lots just feel way too far removed from the gameday atmosphere. There’s no coincidence that these tailgates are as dull and boring as the convocation center is dull and boring (not to mention ugly, poorly lit, outdated). Give the students their lots back and make the tailgate scene fun and relevant.

  17. White Hall / Oct 31 2012

    The FBS v. FCS debate. I have been a strong proponent of jumping since the stadium expansion was announced. I think people are too focus on the near term. I am not exactly fired up about joining the MAC or Sun Belt but it is the only way to go if we ever want to have a chance of becoming a BCS school. There is no chance of us jumping to the ACC or Big East in one jump and this will require several jumps. Ask Boise State now if the multiple steps it took starting in 1996 to get from I-AA to the Big East is worth it. I am not saying we will become the next Boise State but the only way to get the alumni and students fired up about games and finish the stadium expansion to 40k (which is in the design) is to play at the highest level. Sure we would have to give up games against Richmond and W&M but look at what we would get in return eventually if we go FBS, games AT home against VT, UVa and oh yeah continue our growing rivalry with ODU. Can you imagine the atmosphere when one of those teams come to Bridgeforth?

  18. Sean / Nov 1 2012

    For every Boise State there are two Idahos and New Mexico States. And I think jumping may have the opposite effect you expect. If JMU becomes a losing team every year for a few seasons at FBS level, expect the wind to
    come right out of the sails and attedance to
    Drop.

  19. Shady_P / Nov 1 2012

    The grass is not always greener…..just ask UMASS how that move up to the MAC is treating them (0-4, 0-8).
    If you cannot move up to a legit FBS conference what does it really matter. My guess is ODU better win big in football in C-USA b/c the travel costs for everything else will kill them. The best scenario would be a for the creation of a new FBS conference and move up with like minded quality, current FCS schools on the east/southeast.

  20. 2004 Duke / Nov 1 2012

    “…that all of the Fraternities and Sororities hold recruiting events on fall Saturdays. (competing events)”

    My fraternity’s recruiting events in the fall consisted of GOING TO JMU FOOTBALL GAMES. Hopefully that hasn’t changed.

    @JMUMRD11- “I feel like we lost…Does anyone else feel that way? ” YES.

  21. White Hall / Nov 1 2012

    For every Idaho and New Mexico St., there are schools that made the jump and have done relatively well – South Florida, UConn, and Nevada come to mind. I am sure we can go back and forth listing schools that have done well with the jump and those that have not. And just as Boise St. Is an extreme example for jumping, so is UMass for not jumping. UMass was not that strong of a FCS program to begin with. But this is the first year for UMass at the FBS level, check back in 5 years to see if it was worth it.

    I would love to see a new FBS conference for JMU and other similar FCS schools. But until the NCAA changes its rules, a school cannot jump from FCS to FBS unless it is invited by a FBS conference.

    If you think a couple of losing seasons will cause attendance to drop, well we are currently 6-2 and No. 10 in the country and guess what, attendance is dropping and we can’t even sell out the homecoming game. And remember, JMU football didn’t become good all of a sudden in 2004. Back in the 90’s JMU football was consistently ranked and make the playoffs pretty regularly and even won a few playoff games (sound familiar?) and attendance sucked. Why? Because people were at home watching ACC, Big Ten, SEC, etc games.

    So JMU can do one of two things, start taking steps toward FBS, and really BCS level, or stay at FCS but accept it for what it is, a minor league product. Neither is a bad option but it is unrealistic to expect a big time football program and atmosphere while playing at less than the highest level.

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