Concordia focuses on improving football attendancePublished 10:50pm Saturday, December 14, 2013
There are certain things that draw fans to sporting events and it could be argued that Concordia College Alabama had all, or at least most, of those factors but for some reason many of the seats at Selma’s Memorial Stadium were still empty for home games this season.
The Hornets have a high-tempo offense that resembles the one Auburn rode to the national championship game, play in a stadium that seats thousands of people comfortably and have overcome a bus fire that left the team with little football equipment.
That sounds like the perfect storm for football attendance, especially in a tight knit community like Selma. But for some reason when the Hornets took the field for their three home games this year, there were hardly any fans in the stands.
Head football coach and athletic director Don Lee has run over the list of possible causes and doesn’t know why attendance is so low for Hornets’ home games.
The Hornets went 1-9 this season with a team made up mostly of freshman, but Lee said he doesn’t think Concordia’s record had as big an impact on attendance as some would think.
“When you are not winning nobody wants to come out,” Lee said. “But the problem was we were winning last year and still nobody was coming out.”
Lee said he put extra emphasis on scheduling games around when Alabama and Auburn typically play games and the Hornets succeeded, with every home game starting at 12 p.m. or 1 p.m.
“I wanted to make sure that we scheduled games around times where they are not playing their games,” Lee said. “They usually play at 3:30 or 7 o’ clock at night so I try to stay away from that and play early in morning so if someone did want to run and try to catch the Alabama game they could go catch the Alabama game or go catch it on TV.”
Lee has stressed to his players and his coaches the value of making their mark in the community.
He said the school has focused on recruiting locally because local players bring local fans and he is working on building a schedule for 2014 that features teams that local fans have more of a connection to.
This season’s home opponents — Warner University, Ave Maria and Georgia Military — aren’t exactly household names and Lee understands that but he also said it is challenging to get teams to come to Selma to play games.
One of the main reasons for that is because Lee says Memorial Stadium is really set up for high school games and although he loves playing there, a lot of colleges dislike the idea of travelling to Selma to play on a field not entirely set up for a collegiate game.
“Our problem is with scheduling is teams do not like to come to Selma because the goal post is not a regulated goal post — a college goal post,” Lee said.
Lee said the college has discussed getting brackets for the goal posts that would make them regulation size.
Concordia even offered free admission to its last two football games of the year as a way of thanking the community for the support they received after the fire that left the program with hardly football equipment and in need of donations to get back onto the field.
After the fire, support came from all over the United States and Selma was a big part of it, but even free admission did not get fans to attend games at the stadium.
Concordia’s Christine Weerts, who serves as the school’s Donor and Community Relations person, said transportation is also a key issue. The college has one large van that transports students, but for the last game of the year against Warner it was in the shop.
“I think it is a combination of the distance from campus because our students aren’t really used to going to Bloch Park for much of anything and we need to make sure there is transportation for them and we are working on that,” Weerts said.
She also agreed with Lee that this season’s schedule was a little unusual, because there wasn’t a home game until nearly half the season had already played out.
Next year that won’t be much of a problem, because the Hornets will play their first home game of the year against Stillman College the first weekend of September in a game Lee is already calling huge.
But transportation could continue to be a key problem, unless an on-campus soccer field the school opened this season turns into an on-campus football field quickly.
Weerts said the plan is for that to eventually happen, although she has no idea what the timeline for that move is.
However, she does believe having an on-campus football field would likely provide a big jolt to attendance numbers.
“Most college football games are right there on the campus and I think if that was the case we would have a great turnout,” Weerts said. “We have a good turnout when we play soccer games on our campus.”
Weerts said although the attendance numbers may not be great, the school is always thankful for the fans that did come to football games this season.
“We do want to respect and acknowledge the people who do come,” Weerts said.
“It may not be as big a crowd as we would like to see but there are a lot of faithful people from the community and from the college who come.”