The Syracuse football program is struggling to find an identity both on the field and off. From the inconsistent opinions of fans regarding current head coach Doug Marrone, to an inconsistency of the team’s popularity as a whole, Syracuse just can’t quite figure where they are at as a program. To make my case, I did some research on attendance figures from Paul Pasqualoni’s final four years with the Orange all the way to the present. These figures give each Head Coach for the Orange four straight years of attendance numbers, and I’ve also included each season’s opponents for the home games as well.
Now it should be noted that Doug Marrone has a chance at averaging 40,000 fans per game this season as the biggest home game of the year has yet to be played (Louisville), although it is unlikely. The Orange are going to have to put over 42,000 fans in the Dome on November 10, a feat that has only been accomplished four times in the Doug Marrone era (including 48,000 for his first game with Syracuse). If Marrone can pull that off, he will have averaged 40,000+ fans in three out of his first four seasons with the team.
But even Greg Robinson averaged over 40,000 fans twice in his tenure. So it raises the question: how much does the Syracuse community support the Orange and how popular is this football team in Central New York?
The season that Paul Pasqualoni was fired in, Syracuse averaged more fans than they have in any season since, bringing in over 43,500 fans per game. Eight years later, the closest the Carrier Dome has came to reaching these attendance numbers is in 2011, a season where the Orange put in 40,504 fans per game in their season following their dramatic Pinstripe Bowl victory. The season that the 2004 Syracuse Orange put up such great attendance numbers? Yeah their home games were against Cincinnati, Rutgers, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, and Florida State.
Not exactly the best home slate in Syracuse football history.
The final Pasqualoni years were the team’s most popular in the past twelve years, and it hasn’t even been close. This year’s Syracuse team has a legitimate shot at bringing Doug Marrone’s attendance average to over 40,000, but even if he does he will be behind Coach P by (more than likely) 2,000 people at best. Think about that: 2,000 fans PER GAME over the course of four seasons.
Now we need to also remember that Doug Marrone took the program over in probably the worst state it has seen in its history. We also need to remember that for at least ten marquee home games in the future will be in New York City. So are the attendance numbers in fact impressive for Marrone considering the anger at a lot of fans who refuse to go to games because of the relocation of games to New York City? Is it impressive that Doug Marrone coached teams are averaging almost 40,000 fans a game despite being in the lowly, terrible Big East?
Attendance numbers are obviously very significant as it is a good gauge of how the fans support the team and the coach. While certain attendance stats can be misleading due to pricing promotions, teams that come to the building, and an overall situation surrounding a program that is bigger than one specific team (relocating games), the bottom line is if the team can bring people out to games, that usually means they are relatively successful or the coach is popular enough to gain the support.
So what do the numbers mean? Honestly, I don’t know. Greg Robinson’s best season attendance wise is still more than Doug Marrone’s, and it took Greg Robinson going 1-10 for his attendance numbers to drop below 40,000. If overall attendance for the Orange don’t get above 40,000 this season, I can’t help but wonder if that is a reflection of how the fans feel about the state of this football program from the Athletic Director on down.
I have been hard on the attendance numbers all year this season. Every game I’ve had more than plenty of room to stretch out or even lay down I had so much extra space next to my season ticket seats this season. I personally have been to games in every single season of this sample size I’ve taken, and I can personally attest to the complete atmospheric change in the Dome for the worse over the years. I believe a lack of star power over the years (2001 was Dwight Freeney’s record breaking season with the following years being the Walter Reyes era along with consistent bowl games), along with weak home games have led to decreased attendance in comparing 2001-2004 to 2009-2012.
The Carrier Dome was once known as one of the more difficult places to play in the country, to a place now where the home team gets beat in front of a lot of silver bleachers. The numbers show that Syracuse football was at a good place going 18-6 at home in the final four seasons of the Coach P era, to rock bottom when they went 7-18 at home in the Greg Robinson era. The Doug Marrone era is still being written, but the Orange are currently sitting at 13-11 in games at the Carrier Dome (I don’t include the USC game because the athletic department gave the game away) with a chance to go 4-1 on the home slate this season with their one loss being a last minute one point loss.
I think that the current attendance numbers prove that this really is a crucial point for Doug Marrone. If the Orange can string together some wins and continue to remain eligible for a bowl game, a good crowd will show up for the Louisville game and the attendance number will go up. Should the Orange struggle in this current stretch of critical games, the number could very well drop from where it is right now, and could bring the numbers down to their lowest numbers of the Doug Marrone era. Attendance is a direct result of fan support, and it looks like these next two road games really present a great opportunity for Doug Marrone to regain that fan support Syracuse has lost over the past eight years.