The attendance at FCS football games and YSU

Remember when Bill Lyden spearheaded a drive to build a major stadium on the campus of Youngstown State. It turns out his partner athletic director Joe Malmisur was not only a good fund raiser but an even better personnel

If Joe had not hired Jim Tressel the stadium that helped build might have sat empty through the 80 and 90's. Jim Tressel made One Double A football relevant. The stadium was often filled during the Tressel era. I remember the controversy over losing our winning coach to Ohio State.

After Tressel left, Youngstown had winning seasons under John Heacock but always seemed to miss the playoffs. The formerly filled stadium was now experiencing empty seats. The bud was off the rose. After the Heacock reign, there was the Wolford era, still no playoff games Then their was the Bo era. Bo Pelini got the Penguins back to the playoffs and one victory from another national title. James Madison beat the Penguins in Frisco Texas. I attended that game and Youngstown was well represented at the National Championship game. Bo went to LSU, and now we are into the 3rd year of coach Doug Philips. 

Popularity and relevance was waning during the latter part of the Heacock regime and it has continued to decline. The decline is not just hear. Friday I was watching an Ivy League game on national television and there was only a handful of fans at the game. 

On any given Saturday you can turn on FCS football. Southern Illinois, Indiana State, Western Illinois, you know many of the teams we have played over the years. They all have stadiums similar to ours and they like us are getting only a handful of fans. 

Did we build FCS stadiums too large? At one time they were right sized for Youngstown State. It was common to see 20 thousand turn out for a Penguin game. In this day and age 12,000 is a good crowd and that has not happened much this year. Saturday 65 and sunny was poorly attended. 

Despite some of the best facilities in division one football, the fans are not turning out. Youngstown has a complete indoor practice facility, convenient athletic quarters, and top-notch competition in the Missouri Valley conference, but the fans want to see Ohio State and Penn State. 

Fans used to say the MAC would solve all the issues, but the recently the University of Akron played Kent State, a backyard rival and they were lucky if they had 6000 fans. 

It's not just Youngstown, the Cleveland Guardians won 90 games and made the playoffs but were regularly drawing little more than 12,000 fans a game. The Cleveland Browns seem undaunted by this phenomenon, but even the beloved losers are starting to show some empty seats. 

It's everywhere, look at high school games, stadiums built for 10 thousand plus go largely unfilled. It begs the question, have we overbuilt facilities? Ohio State is largely the only team in Ohio that can regularly fill stadiums. The Cincinnati Bearcats are close to sell outs but in a much smaller facility.

Youngstown States fans from the 80s and 90s are now old. New fans have not replaced the retiring baby boomers. In a metro area that is now below 500 thousand, a winning team may not even do the trick. Maybe we are too old. Nevertheless, I will continue to promote and uplift the University 

Its too bad more people don't take pride in the Penguins. Coach Philips team was wildly entertaining Saturday putting up 24 points in the second quarter, yet most fans stayed home and watched the Buckeyes Beat the Nittany Lions.

As a fan of the Penguins, Ohio State is a distant second in preference. I know, no amount of cajoling is going to make people go to a Penguin game, but it is our heritage. Columbus is a long way from Youngstown and our support should be for the people who bust their hump to put on a good show at Stambaugh Stadium.

For all the reasons I have mentioned I realize low fan attendance is occurring across FCS schools but wouldn't itt be great if we changed the paradigm and took great pride in the Youngstown area, not Columbus. Thats exactly what they do in Fargo.

Pride is on display every Saturday at North Dakota State. Fans take pride in their hometown team the Bisons. I know we have a lot of ground to cover to catch North Dakota State, but it's a goal worth setting. We have state of the art facilities, we regularly give away free tickets to Penguin gams, let's be an outlier and support Youngstown rather than Columbus. Go Penguins.

Dan Rivers

570 WKBN

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