EDITORIAL: It’s about time WKU’s fanbase fills Smith Stadium to capacity

Nov. 8, 2011 Editorial Cartoon

Herald Staff

The Issue: Four straight wins turned out to not be enough for WKU fans. Despite the athletic department’s best attempts to fill Smith Stadium last Saturday for the Toppers’ game against Florida International, announced attendance ended up barely above WKU’s average this season.

Our Stance: What’s it going to take for Smith Stadium to fill to capacity? Since the Toppers have started what’s now a five-game winning streak, they’ve snapped an 18-game home losing skid. Football games have become entertaining and a provided a renewed sense of pride for WKU fans. But people still aren’t filling the stands.

Smith Stadium hasn’t sold out since 22,297 fans showed up for the Toppers’ 50-9 win over Murray State on Sept. 20, 2008 — the first game played in the renovated facility. And the highest attendance rate since then was 20,772 fans on hand to watch WKU fall 38-21 to Indiana last Sept. 18 in Taggart’s home head coaching debut.

Announced attendance at Smith Stadium last Saturday was 15,293, far from the athletic department’s hopes of reaching a capacity crowd of 22,113. The difference between expectations and reality, in fact, was 6,820 fans. WKU averaged 15,284 at its four Smith Stadium home games entering Saturday.

Bjork sent an open letter to fans on Oct. 31 with a “22,113 them,” encouraging them to fill Smith Stadium to capacity when WKU played FIU.

“We are challenging all of you in Hilltopper Nation to fill this stadium Saturday!” the letter read. “We cannot do it alone, and this team needs you to be here wearing your WKU red and cheering on the Hilltoppers.”

The Herald doesn’t understand why fans aren’t showing up to support the Toppers. Their current run marks the longest winning streak the team has had since a five-game stretch in 2004. Isn’t that something to celebrate, recognize and reward by showing up?

Smith Stadium should have been packed last weekend — partially because FIU was the Sun Belt Conference’s preseason league favorite and also because of the stakes. With the win, WKU remains in contention to win the conference and make a bowl game.

The Toppers won Saturday! What happened to fans rushing the field and congratulating the team? Where did the school pride and spirit go? 

Something is wrong with the picture of Casey Tinius making last weekend’s game winning kick in front of a small crowd.

Maybe nobody knows what it will take to fill the stadium, but one thing is for sure: WKU has a football that’s outgrown its reputation as a punchline around campus. The Toppers are succeeding week after week, and WKU’s campus and community should be supporting them as much as possible.

After all, what is a university without a winning football team? Not exactly what officials envisioned before WKU transitioned to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member editorial board.