The students' perspective on Villanova Sports.

Now Or Never: A Call to Action

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.

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5 Responses »

  1. The blame is on Villanova University itself. It’s a college football game and the students want a college football atmosphere and that means tailgating. The University’s puritanical approach to prohibiting any and all drinking is irresponsible and ineffectual. The school should provide security and allow responsible drinking so students will be encouraged to come out, have a good time, and then come into the game and show school spirit. The few times the school lifts these restrictions, namely homecoming, is when the games get their best turnout.

    • I agree that the tailgating restrictions really hurt the atmosphere. College football games mean tailgating parties before kickoff, but for some reason Villanova/Radnor/Public Safety refuses to let up on this issue. Something that can be done is creating a student section. Football games are free and there is no limit like there is for basketball games, yet its rare to feel a student presence at any game. A vibrant student section shows school spirit and creates a fun atmosphere for both students and other fans alike.

  2. Tailgating is a big part of the college football and football culture in general. It’s a shame that there are such strict restrictions on the issue. They allow it twice a year, Parent’s Weekend and Homecoming and as Leonard says, that’s when they do get their best turnouts. Since the University won’t budge on the issue, it’s up to the people and the students. The Augustinian Army needs to do much more, especially when they proclaim to be “Villanova’s student spirit fan group.” I understand basketball is back, but it’s still very early in the season. Football is gearing up for a run in the playoffs, it would be nice if we all back them up along the way.

    • There is extensive tailgating every weekend in the Pavilion lot behind the North Stands. Tailgating is also allowed every week in the Pike Lot.

      For what it’s worth… Though, I’d love to see them specifically allow expanded tailgating on sheehan beach and/or Mendel field on gamedays as well — even so, there really isn’t a need for that expansion because there aren’t enough folks showing up. Chicken-and-egg scenario.

  3. I was at Villanova in the late 1960’s. The teams were not great. Going to games was a social event. We also wanted to demonstrate our school spirit. We would have rallies the night before games and the stadium would be packed for games. Tailgating was never an issue because most of us lived on campus and did not have cars. Also, most of us were under 21 and underage for drinking. Sure,we might sneak a flask into a game and drink but we didn’t tailgate. As far as games and competition, you know when you go to Villanova, it’s not a football power. Do you think every small school has attendance issues? Our BIG game was against BC. Back then they were not the team they are now. We played lots of crummy teams that were at out level. It would have been great if they made the stadium larger but funds were always an issue too. We always wanted to play the ranked schools but the program was always small. It sounds like this is a great team that should be supported. There should never be empty seats at home.

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About The Author

Eugene Rapay '16 created "The Bench Mob" in November 2013. He joined the Villanova Times in 2012 as a writer. A Westchester, NY native, who will bring top quality coverage of all things Villanova sports.

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