Thursday, July 19, 2018
USF Bulls

Maybe on-campus stadium won’t resolve USF’s attendance woes

Turns out, USF's spring game may have answered the Bulls' most pressing question after all. One might even suggest Saturday's proceedings left no room for doubt.

An on-campus stadium probably wouldn't nudge the needle in terms of attendance.

And you thought we were talking about the quarterbacks. Nope, just the ones who choose — or don't choose — to come watch them.

On a sunny spring afternoon, when both the humidity and kickoff time (2 p.m.) were bearable, an announced crowd of only 3,452 turned out for USF's free — free — spring game at Corbett Stadium. The total was nearly 1,000 fewer than last year's contest (4,432), and USF's lowest spring-game turnout since 2015 (3,255).

Despite the proven product on the field (29 wins in the last three years) and extensive efforts to attract fans from all demographics (with live music, a street carnival, pregame parachute jump), the game drew a smaller crowd than Memphis' spring game (estimated at 10,000) and even Temple's (estimated at 5,000).

Yet on-campus football — and an entertaining, winning team — presumably were supposed to rectify this glaring issue. A stadium on site would accommodate the thousands of USF students residing within walking distance of such a venue, and bring a festive game-day vibe to the school.

Well in a sense, Saturday's event — much like the contest itself — was a dress rehearsal of sorts. All was set up to simulate the real thing: on-campus venue, tailgating, band, cheerleaders — with free admission and a quarterback derby as an added incentive.

And it drew roughly the same crowd as a Rays midweek home spring training game. Meantime, the Florida and FSU spring games drew announced crowds of 53,015 and 53,974, respectively.

At least the day wasn't bereft of consolation. In a sideline interview during the live-stream broadcast of Saturday's contest, USF athletic director Mark Harlan indicated $9 million — nearly 25 percent of the estimated cost — already has been raised for the Bulls' football facility.

Bulls fans should be encouraged. Such a facility is desperately needed.

An on-campus stadium? Maybe not so much.

Sparse in the spring
USF's spring-game attendance compared to other American Athletic Conference programs (where attendance was estimated either by school officials or local media)

UCF: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Cincinnati: No game
Connecticut: 2,000*
East Carolina: 1,200
Houston: 1,151
Memphis: 10,000
Navy: No game
SMU: N/A
USF: 3,452
Temple: 5,000
Tulane: N/A
Tulsa: 2,500*
*-media estimate

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