In the days after the 2017 Spring game, I have asked many people what was their take on the Spring Game attendance. Would you go if it were on a different day? Different time of day? Is it important to you? What kept you from going?
I received many different answers. Most people replied that family obligations were the reason for not attending. It was the opening weekend of most Little League’s baseball season so people with children who play baseball attended that over the game. Many people either traveled or hosted out-of-town company for Easter. A few said they were going to the Derby Festival basketball Classic that night and just couldn’t make it to both. Some said that it was just a glorified practice and wasn’t worth their time. A handful of people were still bitter about how the season ended so they abstained from the game.
Last year I was so excited for the season and I couldn’t wait for the Spring Game. I left the game amazed at what I say from Lamar Jackson and disappointed in the turnout from the fans. I was very vocal in my displeasure of support. How could true Cardinal fans not come out on a beautiful day to see a team that we thought was going to be very special? What was more important that Louisville football? I just didn’t understand. I felt that if we wanted to be considered one of the big time programs we had to support them like a big time program. Here are the reported attendance numbers from other schools spring games this year.
Louisville’s reported attendance was 14,000. That’s down from 16,221 from last year and down from Petrino’s first year in the 2.0 campaign (2014) of 27,500. Keep in mind that all these numbers are estimated and often over inflated. However, Louisville is nowhere near these top 10 schools. I wanted so bad to be considered in the league with these schools that I let my disappointment cloud my judgement as to why we are not. I have since changed my tune and I will never fault someone for choosing family over football.
What do all those top 10 schools have in common? Tradition. Years and years of tradition. Louisville does not have anywhere near the tradition of these schools. Over time they will but it won’t happen over night. I will take my kids to the spring game and hopefully when they have kids they will take theirs and so on and so on until it becomes a tradition or right of passage. I look forward to the day when I look on Facebook or Instagram and see family photos a 3 or 4 generations attending games together. It will happen but it has to start with you. It takes many years to develop a tradition along with sustained success. It wasn’t but only about 35 years ago when Louisville almost eliminated its football program. Now we are expecting 40 – 50,000 at a spring game? We need to slow down and realize that we are currently laying the groundwork for the future.
I like to compare it to the Ky Derby. Do you think in 1875 when they ran the first Derby that there was a whole Derby week? Of course not. It started with 1 race. In fact, The Ky Derby did not return a profit until 1903. Now it’s the cities most profitable week of the year. There was no balloon race, no steamboat race, no parade, no Thunder, no Oaks race and no Thurby. These are all things that grew as the tradition of the Ky Derby grew over the past 142 yeas. If we want our Spring Game to grow we have to be patient. We have to get the tradition started. Will the Spring game ever grow into a tradition? I don’t know for sure but I know that if we don’t try it doesn’t have a chance.
As Always, GO CARDS!