Many die-hard Eastern Washington football fans were disappointed in the poor attendance – 4,277 – at last weekend’s FCS quarterfinal game against Jacksonville State, especially in a year when regular-season attendance hit a record 9,152 a game.
It took a perfect storm of arctic weather, finals week and a change in the FCS calendar to suppress postseason attendance to a level that’s still higher than 2010’s run to the national championship.
After drawing 9,522 for the regular-season finale against Portland State on Nov. 23, the Eagles drew 6,127 hardy souls for a second-round game against South Dakota State that was played in 10-degree temperatures.
As if that didn’t have a chilling effect, the JSU game was played almost a full week later than last year’s quarterfinal against Illinois State, which drew 7,512. There’s no way to quantify it, but social calendars and Christmas shopping lists tend to fill up by mid-December.
That’s life: The Spokane Chiefs and Spokane Shock also draw fewer fans for playoff games than in the regular season. Montana, which averaged 26,000 fans in the regular season, drew only 17,345 for a second-round playoff game on Dec. 7 against Coastal Carolina.
“I’m giving a pass to people who couldn’t make it,” said athletic director Bill Chaves, whose cup is always half-full even when Roos Field isn’t.
“It’s hard in the playoffs not knowing when you’re going to play, if you’ll play at home, or even what time you’ll play – and around the holiday season,” Chaves said.
That said, the Eagles are making a big push to put fans in the seats for Saturday’s semifinal game against Towson. Washington Trust Bank purchased 2,000 tickets at the student rate, and the school has distributed most of them to area high schools.
“Obviously, the ability to get Roos Field as close to capacity is incredibly important, because the players feed off the crowd’s energy,” Chaves said.
As of Thursday afternoon, the school had sold just more than 6,000 tickets for Saturday’s game.