Time for Grambling’s football fans to come home

They call them body-bag games, these non-conference contests designed to fill a program’s coffers. You come back with treasures, but risk grave injury — both bodily and emotional.

For Grambling this year, that means trading a winnable home contest like NAIA Langston for a trip to former Top 10 FBS foe Oklahoma State.

Big pay day? Sure. Chance of winning? Not so much.

There’s got to be a better way, fans might be thinking.

There is: Go to your own home games.

GSU struggled to a No. 24 ranking among Football Championship Subdivision programs for attendance last year, drawing an average of 11,219 a night to Robinson Stadium in 2008. But those numbers are skewed upward by homecoming, and a trip by the always-popular Jackson State to Grambling.

Other dates every year are often shockingly less well attended: See TheDerisoReport’s 10-year attendance report below.

The cliche about struggling programs is that the play in front of half-full stadiums. At Grambling, that’s basically the case: In 2007, it sold just 64 percent of the total seats at The Rob, according to the NCAA.

Jackson State, meanwhile, led all SWAC schools in home attendance, with 21,263, and brought a heavy contingency of fans to Robinson Stadium in 2008. Appallachian State paced FCS last season, by the way, with 25,161 supporters a night. (Read the NCAA’s complete report here.)

Home attendance problems are, of course, nothing new. Most of GSU’s graduates are drawn back to their far-flung hometowns after a four- or five-year stint in the piney woods of north Louisiana. And Grambling, even its glory days under Eddie Robinson, was always a road team.

Still, it doesn’t seem like much to ask that the alumni return three or four times a year to support the old college team. Dear ol’ Grambling needs it now more than ever.

Stay away, and here’s how it plays out: The program has dramatically ramped up the number of upper-divisional non-conference foes signed simply to fill budget gaps across the athletic department.

Over the course of the 10 seasons before Rod Broadway’s arrival, Grambling played just 5 of these games — Louisville in 2000, San Jose State in 2003, Washington State in 2005 and Houston in 2006. Grambling has played one a year since ’05, continuing with Pittsburgh in 2007, Nevada in 2008 and Oklahoma State this season.

That’s basically the dividing line in Broadway’s win-loss record since arriving.

“I understand the reasons that we are doing it,” Broadway was telling me the other day, “and I know we need to make some money. But I like to win. Let us play some football, and let us play some place where the field is level.”

Like, say, Robinson Stadium.

“If we can start getting people coming to our home games and supporting us there, we won’t have to sell these kids down the road every year,” Broadway says. “I think that’s the way we need to go about it. If we were to get 10,000 extra fans a game, at $10 a head over course of four home games, thats $400,000. You’re not going to get that kind of guarantee at too many away games, and then you have expenses.”

Broadway pauses. Then, drives in the point: “We need to start supporting ourselves.”

It’s hard to argue against.

HERE’S A 10-SEASON LOOK BACK AT ATTENDANCE:

1999:
Alabama A&M, Sept. 11: 7,586
Valley, Oct. 9: 5,210
Texas Southern, Oct. 30: 14,776

2000:
Alcorn, Sept. 2: 14,310
Jackson State, Oct. 21: 16,424
Alabama State, Nov. 4: 12,954

2001:
Alabama A&M, Sept. 8: 7,432
Texas Southern, Oct. 27: 22,736

2002:
Alcorn, Sept. 7: 11,880
Langston, Sept. 28: 6,975
Jackson State, Oct. 26: 9,462
Alabama State, Nov. 9: 16,723

2003:
McNeese, Sept. 30: 17,485
Valley, Oct. 11: 6,397
Texas Southern, Nov. 1: 21,065
Savannah State, Nov. 15: 3,001

2004
Alcorn, Sept. 4: 18,581
UAPB, Oct. 16: 15,585
Jackson State, Oct. 23: 15,085
Alabama State, Nov. 6: 17,401

2005
Alabama A&M, Sept. 10: 12,195
Valley, Oct. 8: 9,543
Texas Southern, Oct. 29: 22,032
Concordia, Nov. 12: 5,085

2006:
Jackson State, Oct. 21: 18,883
Alabama State, Nov. 4: 18,420
Alcorn, Dec. 2: 2,383

2007:
Alabama A&M, Sept. 22: 7,831
Valley, Oct. 6: 9,873
Texas Southern, Oct. 27: 19,639

2008:
Alcorn State, Sept. 6: 10,077
Jackson State, Sept. 20: 12,702
Langston, Sept. 22: 5,121
Alabama State, Oct. 18: 16,974

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12 comments

  1. This is always an interesting debate. It is easy to simply say "go support your team regardless of who the opponent is", but when you are like me or other fans who have to drive 4 hours (one way) just to see GSU play Langston or Concordia in a home game you have to pause and ask is it really worth it.

    Grambling's situation (as it relates to home attendance) is a very unique situation. Administrators in the athletic department have to understand that scheduling quality/regional out-of-conference opponents will result in greater number at home games. Our home game against Northwestern State this year is a step in the right direction.

    We can't make games like this a one and done deal. We have to constantly do it and with time it will build regional rivalries that will eventually lead to community/regional fan support.

  2. This is always an interesting debate. It is easy to simply say “go support your team regardless of who the opponent is”, but when you are like me or other fans who have to drive 4 hours (one way) just to see GSU play Langston or Concordia in a home game you have to pause and ask is it really worth it.

    Grambling’s situation (as it relates to home attendance) is a very unique situation. Administrators in the athletic department have to understand that scheduling quality/regional out-of-conference opponents will result in greater number at home games. Our home game against Northwestern State this year is a step in the right direction.

    We can’t make games like this a one and done deal. We have to constantly do it and with time it will build regional rivalries that will eventually lead to community/regional fan support.

  3. Scheduling plays a role in energizing the base. That's a fair argument.

    But, in a larger way, we all must know that Grambling has but one option if it hopes to dig out of this budget cut: Fan support. The easiest path to that support is through football.

    There is a shared responsibility.

  4. Scheduling plays a role in energizing the base. That’s a fair argument.

    But, in a larger way, we all must know that Grambling has but one option if it hopes to dig out of this budget cut: Fan support. The easiest path to that support is through football.

    There is a shared responsibility.

  5. I would rely to Roger, but Grambling has taught me to treat people like him with class something he doesn't have, I am with Kenn I will not be worth driving 3 hours to see a team that I already know Grambling is gonna beat, and I agree with Nick that the only way right now is to come to home games and support the home team, but at the same time the A. D. has a responsibility to schedule quality teams in the future.

  6. I would rely to Roger, but Grambling has taught me to treat people like him with class something he doesn’t have, I am with Kenn I will not be worth driving 3 hours to see a team that I already know Grambling is gonna beat, and I agree with Nick that the only way right now is to come to home games and support the home team, but at the same time the A. D. has a responsibility to schedule quality teams in the future.

  7. The problem with attendance is that my Alma Mater (GSU)does not advertise or promote the football schedule to the surrounding areas of North LA and the entire I-20 corridor. GSU have the biggest tool out there and that is KGRM 91.5 the school radio station to advertise and promote people to come to the games. Its one of the best signal radio station in North LA and it does no justice to the university it only serves the Grambling city community. I hope the A.D. takes advantage of this tool KGRM to bring fans to the game because there is nothing else going on in North LA that people can not come to the games.

  8. Not only must we schedule quality opponents but we must schedule strategically. We must start the season at home every year to get all the first game hype crowd. We must schedule every 3-4 weeks there after, we can not have back to back home games at this point.

  9. The problem with attendance is that my Alma Mater (GSU)does not advertise or promote the football schedule to the surrounding areas of North LA and the entire I-20 corridor. GSU have the biggest tool out there and that is KGRM 91.5 the school radio station to advertise and promote people to come to the games. Its one of the best signal radio station in North LA and it does no justice to the university it only serves the Grambling city community. I hope the A.D. takes advantage of this tool KGRM to bring fans to the game because there is nothing else going on in North LA that people can not come to the games.

  10. Not only must we schedule quality opponents but we must schedule strategically. We must start the season at home every year to get all the first game hype crowd. We must schedule every 3-4 weeks there after, we can not have back to back home games at this point.


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