Local crowd fails to impress vs. Aggies

By By Tye Smith

By Tye Smith

The Fantasy-If you build it, they will come.

When the U administration fired head coach Ron McBride from its football staff, it was believed by many that the fans would fill the stadium.

New coach Urban Meyer, it was assumed, would install his wide open offense with four and five receiver sets, and the excitement from the high scoring O would fill the bleachers.

A brand new scoreboard featuring a state of the art Video Wall was installed in the south endzone to complement the recently built press boxes, and suites along the west sideline of Rice-Eccles Stadium. All of this, the administration firmly believed, would generate enough U pride to sell-out its first game of the 2003 season.

The home opener for the Utes was supposed to be a great event for U alumni and students, as the game was against an in-state rival and it wasn’t even televised. The stage was set for the “Urban renewal project” to take place in front of a wild crowd in a full stadium.

The Reality-The fans didn’t go to the game.

39,697 purchased tickets for the season opener. The stadium is capable of seating a maximum of 45,000.

Several of the purchased tickets were not used, which was apparent by the numerous open seats spotting the sidelines.

The bleacher corners were virtually empty, as were the endzone seats at both ends. And more than 5,000 tickets went unsold.

The harsh reality is that BYU can attract more fans to blow out Wyoming than the U can round up for a big-time game. Admittedly, Utah State was ranked last in the nation and the fans might want to see results before they commit an entire Thursday night to a U football game, but many expected attendance would have been much better considering the hype of the Urban Meyer era.

Cheers from the audience were telling during the game, as U fans cheered almost as loudly upon hearing the news that BYU was losing (midway through the second quarter) as they did when the U scored a touchdown.

U loyalists, it seems, would be happier driving through three hours of I-15 traffic to attend a BYU losing effort than they would be driving 15 minutes to watch the Utes win.

So the question remains: Can a commuter campus ever develop the kind of fan commitment required to support a nationally recognized college football program?

These questions can only be answered over time, but one thing does seem certain: If the Utes don’t continue to win, fans will not develop the kind of commitment that the football team deserves-and the stadium will never be full.

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