EDITORIAL: Fan Power: Saturday’s attendance was a good start

Editorial Cartoon for Sept. 24

Herald Staff

THE ISSUE: Saturday was the first football game of the year at Smith Stadium. This is one of the most anticipated seasons in program history, and while the team has gotten off to a 2-2 start, WKU is about to begin the most important part of its schedule.

OUR STANCE: Saturday’s crowd of 20,973 was a strong start, but if Topper fans want WKU to be a nationally-respected program and want to be considered by bowl committees for a better postseason berth, they need to pack Smith Stadium for every home game.

This season is a watershed moment for the WKU football program. Last year, the Toppers earned an FBS bowl berth for the first time in school history — a big step forward for a team that won four games in three seasons just a few years back.

When former coach Willie Taggart left for greener pastures (and an 0-3 start) at South Florida at the end of the year, WKU responded by hiring one of the biggest names in college coaching, Bobby Petrino, to replace him. Months later, Athletics Director Todd Stewart negotiated a deal to move WKU from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference-USA, a move that should bring in more revenue and give the Topper football team more national exposure in years to come.

The football program is making strides to create a national identity and become a respected FBS team. If WKU is going to take the next step, it’s on the fans to do their part to help.

Last year, the Toppers went 7-5 and were invited to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl over a Middle Tennessee team that went 8-4, including a win over WKU. At the time, Ken Hoffman, executive director of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, said a few factors went in to that decision.

One was running back Antonio Andrews, who had a chance to break Barry Sanders’ NCAA record in all-purpose yards.

The other, Hoffman said, was WKU’s home attendance throughout the year — “Clearly the interest is higher,” he said in December.

Bowl representatives want to invite schools that have fan bases that fill up the stadium at home games. They want to invite programs with fans that have proven they will show up when the team is playing a big game.

Saturday’s game against Morgan State had an announced attendance of 20,973 fans in the stands — good for the fourth-largest crowd Smith Stadium has ever hosted.

That’s a good start, especially considering Morgan State is the worst opponent on WKU’s schedule this year, but if fans want WKU to be a team that representatives want in their bowl game, they need to keep it up.

The Toppers will be back at Smith Stadium this Saturday against Navy, with kickoff set for 1 p.m.

If you’re a WKU fan, you can’t take a handoff on the field on Saturday or rush the Navy quarterback. But if you want to help the Toppers in the short run and the long run, you can show up to the game. It might mean more than you think.