Back in February, we learned that the Syracuse Orange spring football game would take place on April 2. A host of other activities have been released since, and it looks like it's going to be an exciting day for SU fans anxious for the Dino Babers era to start.
... Or that was the plan, until the SU men's basketball team made the Final Four. Their opening game (as you know) takes place on Saturday night against North Carolina in far-away Houston. The Syracuse women's team, also in their own Final Four, plays on Sunday night against Washington in closer-by (but still not close) Indianapolis. Is anyone sensing a bit of a problem?
For all the (rightfully) expected fanfare at the football game, the one thing no one planned on was a good portion of fans either in Houston already or prepping for watching the Final Four later that day. No, the 11 a.m. ET start doesn't really interfere with the games, but if you're hosting a party and live 20-25 minutes from campus, perhaps your mind's elsewhere that morning. I know, I know... this sounds like I'm excusing people. And to be honest, maybe I am.
But if we're expecting low turnout now, and excusing fans for having priorities elsewhere, what's the solution for Babers and Co. to keep up the excitement around the much-anticipated spring game? Change parts of the day? Move the game entirely? Something else?
For our own Kevin Wall, the solution, as always, just comes down to proper marketing. As he told me, while explaining his stance:
Those casual fans are a great point -- and one backed up by the most important thing for college athletic department success: sales. According to Fanatics.com, Syracuse merchandise sales have risen 650 percent since Sunday, March 20 (when the Orange beat Middle Tennessee). That's tops in the nation, and a figure so large that the Orange are now the second-most popular school in terms of merchandise sales since the NCAA Tournament started. Only fellow ACC school and Final Four foe UNC has more.
On the other hand, even with the casual fans involved... we still might end up with no one showing up. An easy solution, in my book: Just move the game.
It doesn't even have to move very far, either. Just take it to Sunday, April 3. Start it at the same time, do all the same stuff. The Syracuse women's team doesn't tip off until 8:30 p.m. ET. There are certainly football fans that will be in Indy watching the ladies and others planning watch parties, but that number may be a bit smaller than those planning over football for the men's Final Four (at least if we're looking at the tragically low game attendance figures at women's games).
Even better? Maybe just send it to the following Saturday. April 9. The current date's one of the earliest spring games in the country, and as we've already ID'd: there's a conflict for many fans. Put it on April 9, and (ta da!) it's an instant "welcome home" pep rally for Orange athletics fans. Whether neither or both basketball teams win it all in their respective tournaments, use the spring game as a gathering for the SU community to welcome those players back as heroes... and THEN transition that excitement into watching the football team scrimmage and TICKET SALES. You can do all the things Kevin recommended AND pull in a larger attendance figure than the typically-miniscule (whatever, I know, doesn't matter) fan support we usually net out with at these things. Win-win, right?
This isn't to hit anyone over the head with making a "poor" decision. This wasn't a bad idea to put the game on April 2. Who could've guessed SU was Final Four bound (twice!)? It's just a nudge that maybe, while we have a chance to do so, move it so that every sport gets its moment and helps the other ones out too. It's probably not going to move, but perhaps if enough people print this and deliver it to Manley Field House, we've got a chance to turn the spring game into an experience fans will never forget.