Welcome to “Second Guess” Tuesday. Here are the opinions du jour.
- What has happened to Marshall University’s football attendance?
Everyone expected it to rise after the contracts for football head coach Doc Holliday and Athletic Director Mike Hamrick were not renewed.
Everyone expected it to rise when Charles Huff was hired as the Thundering Herd’s new head coach. Everyone expected the enthusiastic and outgoing Huff to become a veritable pied piper, drawing fans back into Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
After recent years of declining attendance, it was supposed to be a renaissance season in 2021.
That was the expectation.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t come to fruition. It hasn’t even come close.
Oh sure, the 24,521 fans who showed up in “The Joan” for Marshall’s 44-10 victory over North Carolina Central in the home opener pretty much matched expectations. But for East Carolina? Not even close.
Given the history and the circumstances of the 50th anniversary of the Young Thundering Herd, there was no reason not to expect a crowd of 30,000 and change last Saturday. That’s what it should have been. Instead, only 24,833 fans turned out to witness this emotional rivalry.
That is stupefying.
It means Marshall’s average attendance is 24,677 fans. It also means the Herd is averaging 13,467 empty seats, and that’s a very significant problem.
From 2010 through 2016, MU attracted more fans in each of those seven seasons than it is drawing in 2021. In 2017, the average attendance dropped to just 21,741, and then in 2018 it was 24,062. In 2019, MU’s average attendance was 23,190. And, of course, in 2020 attendance wasn’t a factor due to COVID-19.
So, basically, Marshall’s attendance is in the throes of a five-year skid, with no end in sight.
That’s alarming. Particularly in light of the fact it is a Marshall problem rather than a state of West Virginia problem. Any notion of a statewide slide was put to rest when a sellout crowd of 60,022 showed up at Milan Puskar Stadium Saturday in Morgantown to watch WVU’s 27-21 victory over Virginia Tech.
Nope, this is a Marshall problem, and a new face in the head coaching position has yet to make a difference. Of course, it would help if Huff didn’t demean MU’s fan base as he did at the end of his postgame news conference Saturday night.
“Anybody who wants to jump off the wagon, go ahead and get off while we’re slowing down,” said Huff pointedly, “because when we pick up speed you’re not going to be able to get on.”
Comments like that will make the problem worse, not better.
- WVU head coach Neal Brown was drained after the Mountaineers’ hard-fought win.
“Great win,” said Brown in his postgame news conference. “I’m worn out. It felt like I played. Glad I didn’t, but it felt like I did. I thought this was going to be a defining moment for us. Big win. A little ugly at the end of the day.”
True on all accounts.
- Marshall basketball head coach Danny D’Antoni has offered scholarships to a pair of interesting prospects.
Micah Handlogten is a 7-foot-1, 212-pound center for South Lake Christian Academy in Huntersville, North Carolina. He’s a member of the Class of 2022 and made a visit to Huntington last week, watching an MU practice in the Henderson Center.
Then there’s Matty Foor, 6-0 guard from Summerville (S.C.) High School. Foor’s reputation is he jumps like Stevie Browning and shoots like Jon Elmore. He’s in the Class of ’23.