Taggart sets lofty goal for spring game

Emily Patton

It was the first week of March when Head Coach Willie Taggart sat down for a meeting with Lindsay Thomas.

Taggart brought to Thomas an idea — for WKU to be the first Sun Belt Conference school to get 15,000 fans to a spring game.

Thomas, assistant athletic director for marketing, said WKU was going to make it happen.

The annual spring game will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday at Houchens-Smith Stadium, with an alumni vs. coaches game beginning at 4 p.m.

The stadium, which was renovated and expanded in 2008, can now hold more than 22,000 fans.

“Is it a really high goal? Absolutely,” Thomas said. “But if you’ve been around Coach Taggart and that team long enough, we set our goals high, and why would you not? If we get 8,000, that’s awesome. If we get 20,000, even better.”

According to WKU media relations, an official attendance record has never been recorded at previous spring games because it’s a free event.

But Thomas estimated the attendance at last year’s game was about 4,000.

This year Taggart, the marketing department and all of the Topper players have been out in full force to persuade students to stay on campus this weekend and attend the football game.

Taggart made stops at Fresh Food and Red Zone this week — bullhorn in hand — to promote the game, while Thomas has done several radio spots this week.

WKU has utilized newspapers, television newscasts, radio spots, social networking, emails and flyers to advertise the event on campus and beyond.

“We are investing a little bit more time, more money, more energy, because we are I-A football, and we have to have that marketing behind it to push that to our campus and to our community,” Thomas said. “We want everyone talking about WKU football’s spring game.”

Taggart said the efforts are all about being different, and bringing in 15,000 fans would be unprecedented in the conference.

“Why not? No one has ever tried before,” he said. “Don’t tell me you can’t do it if you’ve never tried before. That’s how it used to be. I’ve seen that movie before. I’m not watching it again. Get a new movie now.”

But what Taggart said is most important about reaching the goal is that his players will understand what he has been saying to them on the field.

“A lot of people depend on them to do well,” he said. “That will reiterate what I’ve been preaching to them. It is not just us. We have a lot of other people in this community counting on us to do well. This thing is bigger than what we thought it was.”

When fans enter the stadium Saturday, they will have the chance to register to win a free trip for two to WKU’s game at LSU next season on Nov. 12.

The trip includes airfare, hotel accommodations, dinner with the team and sideline passes. A drawing will be done at halftime by Taggart to determine the winner.

Four WKU students will also have the chance to compete in a 1-on-1 passing contest, which will have a $1,000 cash prize. Lastly, one fan will be brought down onto the field to play “A Minute to Win It” contest.

In addition to the prizes at stake, junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes said he has been trying to persuade friends and fans by simply letting them know that “it’s free.”

“It’s Saturday in the middle of the day,” Jakes said. “Come out and enjoy the show.”