BOZICH: Who Draws More Fans Saturday -- U of L or UK? - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH: Who Draws More Fans Saturday -- U of L or UK?

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The numbers on the scoreboard won't be the only ones that matter at U of L and UK Saturday. The numbers on the scoreboard won't be the only ones that matter at U of L and UK Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky.  (WDRB) – There are rushing yards, passing yards, total yards and the final score. Then there are the numbers that really matter in college football:

Attendance numbers.

Nobody will travel to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium Saturday thinking Missouri State is a threat to the University of Louisville. What I wonder is how many will watch a game that will be over before Teddy Bridgewater adjusts his shoulder pads?

With about 3,000 of its 55,000 seats unsold, can U of L outdraw the University of Kentucky this weekend?

Empty seats are expected for the Wildcats' home opener against Kent State. Empty seats are what helped drive Bill Curry from the job. Empty seats will be an issue for Joker Phillips, as if he doesn't have enough things to furrow his brow.

According to the latest report from UK, football, season tickets sales were down nearly 21 percent from last season and 32.5 percent from 2009. UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart said Thursday that the school had sold around 40,000 season tickets.

The forecast for student turnout is partly cloudy with a 70 percent chance of apathy. The official UK athletic web site reported that although student season tickets are $35, there is a greater percentage decline in sales to students than the general public.

What's a reasonable turnout for a home opener against a Mid-American Conference opponent?

The Wildcats attracted 58,022 for their home opener against Central Michigan last season. That was the smallest season-opener crowd since UK drew 57,136 for Texas State (who?) in 2006.

The last season opening crowd of less than 57,000 came in 1993 when the Wildcats dusted Kent State, 35-0.

When was the last UK home opener with fewer than 50,000?

Try 1988 against Central Michigan. Only 41,736 attended.

Considering that UK has had one crowd of less than 56,882 the last five seasons, anything less than that number is certain to inspire howls and analysis of what's going on in Lexington.

One word of perspective: Attendance is an issue across college football. Even in the allegedly insatiable Southeastern Conference.

The Palm Beach Post reported that attendance at Florida's home opener declined for the third consecutive season. There were more than 4,000 empty seats for the Gators' home opener against Bowling Green.

"I'm not overly concerned about it," Florida coach Will Muschamp told Jason Lieser. "We need to win football games and that's what we're going to do."

Excitement has never been greater at Vanderbilt, but the Commodores failed to sell out their 40,550-seat stadium for their home opener with South Carolina.

Florida State expects to contend for a national title, right? It's football country 365 days a year, right? According to NCAA statistics, nearly 15 percent of the seats were unfilled for the Seminoles' home opener against Murray State.

Here are five other schools that failed to sell out their home openers (the percentage of empty seats, according to the NCAA, in parentheses):

Missouri (9 percent); Brigham Young (11 percent); Mississippi (16.5 percent); Washington (nearly 26 percent) and Purdue (more than 35 percent).

Surprised? Me, too.

College football has never been more popular. But the college football consumer has never been more discerning.

Last Saturday a fan could enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner from the couch and watch college football without interruption for more than 15 hours, starting with the 9 a.m. kickoff of the Notre Dame-Navy game in Dublin. The TV schedule will remain stuffed with delicious viewing choices for at least a dozen hours every Saturday all season.

Air-conditioning, HD viewing, replays and tasty groceries within arm's distance vs. humidity, traffic, concession-stand lines and craning your neck to see around the guy who keeps standing up?

The debate isn't as one-sided as it used to be. Even the NFL knows that.

But bills must be paid. The rest of the country needs to be impressed.

For Louisville, attendance for the Missouri State game will be another item in the beauty pageant of showing everybody (like the Big 12) that football really matters here.

For Kentucky, attendance for the Kent State game will be studied as a measurement of how much love the persistently supportive UK fan base still has for Joker Phillips.

Not all the important numbers this weekend will be on the scoreboard.

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