The Louisville Cardinals are nationally-ranked and feature a legit Heisman candidate. The Syracuse Orange have proven that their offense has the potential to put some serious points on the board. The school has been promoting this Friday’s game as an Orange-Out for months.
By all accounts the Carrier Dome should be packed.
But what kind of attendance number should we expect, realistically, and still be pleased with?
I’ve seen a lot of people say that they expect 40K for the game but I’ll be honest with you, I’m not convinced that’s a possibility.
First things first, let’s just be honest with ourselves here. Yes, we all think the Dome “should” be sold out or at least 40K+ but there are a lot of factors at play that make it hard for that to happen.
SU is coming off of a terrible attendance year. We’ve got a new coach but a lot of casual fans are tired of investing in the new guy only to see him leave one way or another in a few years as the program starts over. Millennials, ruiners of everything that is good, probably want to watch the game on their Snapchatters or whatever it is they do. Louisville is an exciting opponent but they’re not “LSU exciting.” And let’s face it, there’s still lots of apples to be picked and
leafs (leaves, dummy) to rake.
Point is, it’s just not realistic to say, “the Dome was packed in the 90s when McNabb was there, so it should be packed now.” That was a different era with different expectations.
So how can we properly try to figure out what a realistic-yet-quality attendance might be on Friday?
Let’s look at recent history. LSU, the biggest name-brand opponent to come to the Dome in years (sorry, Clemson), drew 43K, which included a solid showing by Tiger fans. Clemson, meanwhile, came to the Dome last year as the No. 1 team in the nation and drew a shade under 37K. “Normal” home games like Pitt and BC both drew 30K. A lot of this was influenced by the diminished returns of the Shafer Era and a sense that the team was not going to do well in most of these games.
In 2014, expectations were a bit higher and the Orange saw crowds of 40K for Maryland, 37K for Louisville, 43K for Florida State, and 40K for nationally-ranked Duke.
Historically, SU attendance needs time to rebuild itself. Casual fans saw a bad showing in 2015, so they’re going to need some proof that it’s worth their time to show up in 2016. The 31K for Colgate follows through on that idea, considering how low that is for a season-opener with an exciting, new head coach.
So we know our ceiling right now is 43K and that’s only for super-marquee programs (LSU, FSU). Louisville is good and they’re a rival but they’re not on that level, so that’s not a realistic number. We drew 37K vs. Louisville in 2014 but that was when people were riding high on a bowl game and a 2-0 start. Last year’s comparable games were more likely to be in the 30-36K range.
So with everything we know and being realistic about things, I think the expectation for attendance should be set somewhere between 36-38K. I know that’s probably lower than you want to hear but it just fits with what we’ve seen and what we know about Orange fans. And honestly, it’s not a bad number even if we end up at 36K. That’s still an uptick from Colgate and, hopefully, SU puts on a good-enough show to keep them interested. A good game Friday could keep attendance numbers in the same range next week for USF even if we lose.
So that’s my highly-scientific theory. What do you think? Are you still in the “40K or we riot” camp? Or do you think we might not even reach 35K? Interested to hear where we all stand.