As you probably saw yesterday, the Syracuse Orange’s homecoming/Orange Central festivities have been moved to September 12-15 — the same weekend as SU’s matchup with the defending national champion Clemson Tigers. That’s a cool idea in many respects. If Syracuse can swing College GameDay that weekend, it’ll be a packed house for sure.
That said, my second thought (after the GameDay note) was one of some slight worry: Do we put all of our attendance “eggs” (so to speak) in one basket here?
With most sports struggling with in-person attendance to some extent, we’ve hopped off that beat in recent years — though SU’s attendance did go up last season. Still, we know it’s tougher to fill the Carrier Dome for football than it is at many other Power Five schools. So spreading out the big events over the course of a season could give you a better average, even if a potentially lower overall ceiling on the biggest game(s).
The matchup against Clemson on September 14 already had a bunch going for it as Syracuse’s home opener and the ACC opener — usually two separate events on their own. Add in the fact that College GameDay could absolutely consider coming to campus for the game against the Tigers and it was already a very busy weekend on the Hill.
Now, add Homecoming/Orange Central, which greatly increases the number of people looking to book nearby hotels, gathering on campus and going to the game at the Dome. It’s a recipe for a great crowd for a potential GameDay spot. But there’s the chance this renders the rest of the home slate meaningless for some fans (also, good luck for anyone that waits past April to book a hotel nearby).
Should Syracuse fall to Clemson (as expected by most), the rest of the home games lack the wider appeal to get non-season ticket holders in the door. Western Michigan and Holy Cross are smart potential wins on the schedule, but not games that are going to motivate large crowds. We already know Pitt and BC don’t necessarily excite this fan base. Same goes for Wake Forest.
Stacking what could amount to four events — home opener, ACC opener, GameDay, homecoming — on top of each other effectively makes it a one-game schedule... unless you pull the upset again. Because that’s the major risk/reward here. Pulling out all of the stops to show Syracuse is “back” as a football school on GameDay provides some great images for the rest of the year, and for selling the rebuild.
But without the win (and especially if it ends up a blowout loss), you’ll find it harder to get energy behind the rest of this schedule. Keeping homecoming where it was — a nearly assured win over Holy Cross — was the better play when it comes to boosting attendance for that game and fulfilling the primary purpose of homecoming weekend (school spirit usually coinciding with a big win). Without that motivation, the typically low-attendance FCS game probably looks exactly as it would have had the game been put in the traditional Friday before Labor Day slot.
This isn’t a complaint as much as it is a question for the group here. Would you rather have a crowd of around 40-43,000 for the Clemson game and lesser potential GameDay attendance in mid-September if it means more fans show up to the later games? Or does it not really matter and I’m overblowing attendance differences created by these “loud” dates on the season schedule? Share your own thoughts in the comments.