Dating back to the Bill Snyder years, K-State football has had about 45,000 fans who could be considered diehards. In almost any situation, the Wildcats could count on at least this many people attending games.
It appears Ron Prince might have lost at least a couple thousand of those fans. In K-State’s Big 12 Conference home opener against No. 7 Texas Tech on Saturday, there were only 43,614 people in attendance.
Since 2004, Saturday’s attendance was the lowest for a K-State Big 12 home opener.
In 2006, the Wildcats played their first Big 12 home game against Oklahoma State. It was Prince’s first year. K-State got beat by Baylor, 17-3, the week before. Several fans questioned Prince’s ability.
Still, the Wildcats drew a crowd of 46,616. Though the program was in a state of uncertainty, the diehards still showed up.
A lot of them weren’t happy, but they still had the confidence to pack bags of charcoal and cases of Bud Light into their F-150s and drive to Snyder Family Stadium. Some of them set aside their Saturdays, traveling across the state from western Kansas.
But Saturday, against a top-10 team, the Wildcats saw a significant dip in attendance. A lot of people who have spent money on tickets have chosen not to use them.
What makes the pathetic crowd worse is that the Wildcats were playing the No. 7 team in the nation.
Typically for games like that, K-State has no trouble bringing in close to 50,000 fans.
There’s always something exciting about hosting a top-10 team. There’s the excitement of watching a really good football team, even if your team is struggling.
There’s the chance of national television exposure. There’s even the slight hope that your team will get it together for one Saturday and shock a heavyweight.
Despite all that, thousands of K-State fans chose to not attend. Something has discouraged K-State fans enough to keep them away from Snyder Family Stadium.
There is a lot of doubt in Prince and the program he’s trying to build.
He’s had trouble keeping assistant coaches from leaving.
He’s struggled to recruit the best Kansas high school football players. His defense looks like it’s straight out of the Stan Parish era.
K-State fans realize it takes time to build a consistent winner. It even took Snyder about five years before his program went to bowl games every year.
But K-State fans should not have to put up with a program that they believe is going nowhere. It’s unlikely they will.
Many of those same fans who refused to go to the Tech game might decide that they don’t want to buy season tickets next year.
Not only will that be a significant loss of money for the athletic department, but it will result in Manhattan feeling the negative economic effects as well.
What’s sad is that Saturday’s showing might only be the beginning.
If the Wildcats continue to struggle, it wouldn’t be too surprising if less than 40,000 fans show up to the season-ending game against Iowa State.
Jon Garten is a senior in print journalism. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.