Big crowd needed at Kroger Field

Published 5:15 pm Thursday, September 20, 2018

It’s been more than a decade since Kentucky has beaten a highly-ranked team at Kroger Field.

The last time the Wildcats notched a win over an opponent ranked in the Top 15 in front of the home crowd came in 2007 when Kentucky stunned LSU — ranked No. 1 at the time — 43-37 in triple overtime.

One of the members from that squad – Jacob Tamme — will be on hand Saturday when the Wildcats play host to No. 14 Mississippi State, the team’s first night game at home this season. Tamme is one of six former players and coaches who will be inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame Friday night and will be honored during the team’s contest against the Bulldogs.

The sad part is the fact that approximately 10,000 tickets or more were available for the contest earlier this week, a usual issue for a Kentucky football program that normally doesn’t have a problem getting fans in the stands even during the good, bad and the ugly. Kentucky (3-0) is undefeated and has a chance to beat a ranked Mississippi State team for the first time since 1953.

Despite the lack of a sellout so far this season, Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops is expecting a loud crowd on Teacher Appreciation Day.

”I don’t know what to compare it to, but I just hope and expect to have a great crowd,” he said. “I’m sure we will. The Big Blue Nation has not disappointed us in these big opportunities, and the team is excited about being here and being in this environment and working extremely hard this week to give ourselves an opportunity to win.”

The first two home crowds at Kroger Field this season failed to produce a sellout. In the opener, the announced attendance was 49,138. Coming off the first victory over Florida in 31 years, only 48,217 fans attended last week’s drubbing of in-state foe Murray State. To put things in perspective, the crowds in each of the first two games would be just more than double the size of a sellout crowd at Rupp Arena for a men’s basketball game.

The reason behind the low crowds could be attributed to higher ticket prices, but that hasn’t kept fans from the stands in the past, especially during the tough times when winning football games at home against ranked teams and pulling out close wins proved to be a difficult task for the Cats. Maybe it just has taken Big Blue Nation a little more time to get past last year’s disappointing loss to Florida at Kroger Field, a game that was decided by blown coverage and a long missed field goal attempt at the buzzer.

Although no one can pinpoint the exact reason, declining attendance isn’t just a problem at Kentucky. Across the landscape of college football, attendance at games is starting to slide, with the exception of programs such as the University of Alabama, Auburn, and other high-profile programs in college football.

The slide didn’t happen overnight. The trend began last year when average per-game attendance among the 129 FBS teams was down by an average of 1,409 fans, the lowest single-season decline in 34 years.

The good news is the fact that there’s still more football to be played and Kentucky will have for more home games this season following this week’s contest against the Bulldogs on Saturday night.

No one knows what will transpire in the future in terms of wins and losses, but this Kentucky team has the tools in place to produce a memorable season and could use more fans in the stands for support during the rest of the season.

How many times has a once-in-a-decade player like Benny Snell come along? Snell is well on his way toward the top of the record book and is on the move quickly. Records are made to be broken and Snell is inching closer to the top of the list.

It’s only a matter of time.