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It's On SU Athletics To Make Orange Fans Come Back to the Carrier Dome

While SU fans squabble over who's the better team supporter, the people whose job it is to puts butts in the seats don't seem all that interested in doing so.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, the whole Syracuse Orange football attendance debate has devolved into a flame war between Syracuse fans who think you're a p**** if you miss an SU game for your kid's birthday party and Syracuse fans who don't really see the point of shelling out $50/person to go to a game when they've got a big-screen TV and HD broadcast waiting for them at home.

The issue, which has always divided Syracuse fans, has divided them once again. And while we squabble with one another over who is a better fan and whether or not it's our moral duty to attend all SU home games, we're missing the larger point. Maybe I've been watching too much Mr. Robot, but we're down here fighting with each other while the powers-that-be sit back and watch us tear one another apart,

The onus isn't on Syracuse fans who stay home to make the decision to come to the Carrier Dome. The onus is on SU Athletics to give them a good reason.

Because let's be clear, last week's paltry attendance was thanks in large part to a stunning lack of effort on the part of SU to motivate the fanbase.

But there was a call for an #OrangeOut!

Yes. On Wednesday. In a press release on the website. A press release that was more about trying to get you to buy new Syracuse gear than anything else (the 20% off coupon was hysterical because in order to get the new orange shirt in time for the game you would have had to have used priority shipping, thereby nullifying whatever savings the code gave you).

Take a look around the next time another school does a [INSERT COLOR-Out]. Do they just put it out there and hope for the best? Probably not. They probably either offer a free t-shirt to fans or create a t-shirt exclusive to the game and give you enough time to order it.

Yes, you would expect SU fans to show up to a Syracuse football game wearing orange, but part of an #OrangeOut is that you as the program are creating a welcoming environment and offering up a new incentive for fans to be a part of things.

The way SU did it puts the pressure on the fan. What business do you know of that would tell it's customers to do something and then not offer them a reasonable way to do it?

But it was Coach Mac Day!

First of all, let's get into how tacked-on that whole thing felt. You want to honor Coach Mac? Honor him. Give him a halftime salute. Unveil a plaque. Dedicate a building or a wing to him.

Mac is a humble guy so maybe he didn't want all the fanfare, but a end of the first quarter jaunt around the field? That's the kind of thing you do for the Olympic sports team that won a conference title. It's to be argued that Coach Mac is the reason SU Football is at all relevant today. He (like Donovan McNabb before him) deserved more.

But, for some reason, SU Athletics doesn't really seem all that interested in honoring the Orange greats in any kind of exciting way. It's always a personalized jersey in some glass, a couple photos and then we're done. Thanks for stopping by but the commercial break is almost up so get out of here.

No wonder SU fans don't feel the need to drop everything and show up for that.

Well, at least attendance will be good for the LSU game.

You're not that deluded, are you? Yes, the LSU attendance will probably be somewhere in the mid-to-high 40's. Hooray for everyone! But, um, you know a pretty decent portion of that number will be LSU Tigers fans, right? Like, 6,000-7,000.

Come here.



That doesn't mean we solved anything, dummy.

All that means is that we scheduled an opponent with a dedicated fanbase who packed the Dome for one weekend. At the end of the day, even if we get 45K for the LSU game (which would put it on par with other big-time opponents), that's still only going to be around 37-38K local fans. And then when we almost certainly lose that game, we'll be right back to the low 30's/high 20's for the next one.

not great

As I was writing this piece, Nate Mink published a piece on what Syracuse is doing to solve the attendance problem. Their solution? Count on visiting fans...

"They're going to have a good contingent," he said. "They're a national team, and they've got fans all over the country. I don't think they make it up to the Northeast that often, so coming up to the Dome will be an exciting time for any LSU fan, too."

Scheduling opponents such as LSU is a solution to the attendance crisis, too, according to Mahar, who recognized moving previous high-profile nonconference games to MetLife Stadium turned some fans off.

Because the answer to solving Syracuse Football's longterm problems will always be to schedule sure-losses. That's so Syracuse that I cannot even...

Well look, Syracuse fans aren't going to pack the Dome until they know the team is a consistent winner.

Well now you're on to something. This is true. At the end of the day, when the team wins, fans will come back. When the team does well one season, we see the uptick in early season attendance the next year. As this year has shown us, the other direction works as well.

That's a fact of life and you can either spend your day complaining about it or you can just accept it.

That's not what we're talking about. What we're talking about is what Syracuse Athletics can do to get an extra 4-5K butts in the seats each game in the meantime. It's too much to ask to say SU must convince 15,000 more people to attend the Central Michigan game. But had they tried, they absolutely could have goosed whatever that attendance will be by 4,000 people.

That's where the flaws in the system are revealed. That's why a half-assed #OrangeOut campaign and half-assed Coach Mac celebration makes a difference. That's where a concerted effort to boost outreach to get children in the Dome would make a difference. That's where long-term thinking would sacrifice a few ticket dollars today for bigger financial rewards down to the road.

Of course, a quick glance at what SU Athletics has in store for Orange fans on Saturday aside from the game reveals, uh...not much.

What could they really do?

They could make it free for all students. They could make it free for anyone 12 and under. They could say everyone in attendance is eligible for a drawing for two free 2016 season tickets. They could pay Michael Carter-Williams or Rakeem Christmas to show up and sign autographs for anyone with a ticket stub. Shove Jim Boeheim or Mike Hopkins out there for a meet & greet. Hell, send the current SU men's basketball team over there for post-game autographs and photos (ticket holders only). They could get Key Bank to pay for 10,000 exclusive free t-shirts (never underestimate the appeal of free ANYTHING). They could say 100 lucky fans in attendance will get a free orange SU football jersey (you know, the ones no one can buy right now?).

They could do ANYTHING. They could do SO MANY THINGS.

Instead, they don't do much of anything. And what they do, they do with the passion of a bored office worker.

Until that changes, I don't blame anyone for going the HD route.