8-2, national title contenders – but who’s watching? The Villanova Wildcats’ football team has won eight of their last nine games and is ranked in the top ten of the FCS College Football polls. Despite having one of their better seasons in recent history, attendance has declined from last season. The 2013 Wildcats ended their season 8-4 and missed the playoffs. They brought in an average home crowd of 9,137 people. Meanwhile, this year’s squad has only brought in an average of 6,578 spectators per home game thus far. The 2014 Wildcats do not deserve the rows of empty seats that run through Villanova Stadium.
Why aren’t more people watching? One possibility lies in the lack of a good fan atmosphere. Aside from the empty seats, the crowd does not immerse themselves into the game. Attempts by the crowd to make noise in order to rattle opponents on third down are somber and ineffective. There’s rarely any chanting and cheerleaders’ efforts to rally the crowd end up ignored. “I’ve gone to football games where I’m the only student in my section,” says Krystian Seebert, a junior who’s attended all home games this season. “At that point, it’s discouraging and it becomes more of a chore.”
Sports build on community. It is always much more enjoyable to go to a game with friends and good company as opposed to going alone. It becomes a turn off to students, who would rather engage in other activities than sit idly in the stands as a game progresses. “Even if you go to football games, sometimes it’s like you are the only one at a party,” adds Patrick Ciapciak, another student at Villanova. It’s a far cry from the type of atmosphere that presents itself come basketball season, where the Pavilion becomes packed with energy and life from its student section.
The level of competition also becomes an issue. “Villanova’s football games don’t hold much value; there’s not much at stake,” says junior Thomas Shea, who has not attended a football game since freshman year. “It becomes less appealing to students, you don’t see them on ESPN or playing the more recognized schools that are on TV every weekend.”
Unfortunately for Villanova, there isn’t much they can do to remedy the issue of competing against FCS teams. Talks to move up into FBS competition died down years ago and it appears that they will never be resurrected. Radnor Township, which nests the university, is strongly opposed to the expansion of Villanova Stadium – a necessary prerequisite for moving up the ranks. Outside of the annual FBS opponent to kick off the season, they are stuck playing in the CAA conference and FCS play. Since the birth of the new Big East with the Catholic-7, it does not seem that Villanova’s stance on its football team is changing anytime soon. A possible solution would have to be tackled from a different angle.
Villanova needs to give more of the spotlight to its football team, as they gear up for the end of the season and a playoff push. Similar to what they do for the basketball team, they need to send videos to students of Andy Talley or stars of the football team imploring fans to come out and watch the game. It would be nice for the students to be able to place a face to a name, or see what these players look like underneath their helmets and pads. It’s a shame that most of the student body can identify everyone from starting lineup to the players who see very few minutes and sit on the bench of the basketball team, but not John Robertson or Kevin Monangai. Villanova is currently playing some exciting football; their offense is putting up an average of 38.5 points per game. They have a great playmaker in John Robertson, who is having an amazing season. Robertson boasts a remarkable touchdown to interception ratio of 29-2. He’s a candidate for the Walter Payton Trophy, an award given to the best player in the FCS; students need to know who he is.
The Augustinian Army, Villanova’s student spirit fan group, needs to take an initiative in rallying students to come to these games. Not only to have them watch, but watch together. Villanova Stadium does not have an official student section, unlike the Pavilion. A designated section needs to be organized and from there students can begin chants and rallying cries, much like how they do in the Pavilion. As they get more into the games, their energy gets pumped into the rest of the crowd. This creates a better atmosphere for fans and players. After all, students still flock to the Pavilion even if the basketball team is playing schools like N.J.I.T. or Towson and immerse themselves into the games.
At the end of the day, students will be more inclined to attend events where it will be fun for them. Villanova needs to put the spotlight on the football team and attract students to come and join the football team as they chase another national title. If there was a time to start watching, it’s right now. The Wildcats have one last home game this season; everyone should come out this Saturday night at 7 p.m. to support our team.