Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Cyr: Are UMass students actually football fans?

By Andrew Cyr

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(Amanda Creegan/Daily Collegian)

(Amanda Creegan/Daily Collegian)

Saturday’s football game between the Massachusetts football team and Bowling Green was the biggest “can’t miss” event that will roll through Amherst this fall.

It was the first football game at McGuirk Stadium since 2011, and with a newly renovated press box and state-of-the-art performance center, McGuirk is starting to look like an actual college football stadium and not just some glorified high school stadium you would find down in Texas.

But as the week progressed and game day neared, the questions being asked changed from “Are you going to the football game?” to “Are you going to the tailgate?”

The tailgate scene was legitimate. There were UMass flags being flown off cars, people grilling out of their trunks, footballs being tossed around the parking lot and, of course, plenty of beverages to go around.

Was it as big as the tailgates  in the Big Ten or even as crazy as the ones from SEC schools? No. But for the size and scale of UMass and the area surrounding the field, it was just fine because it was in the Minutemen’s backyard.

Let’s talk football for a second, though.

In an era of football run by die-hard fantasy nerds and stat geeks, Saturday’s game had it all: 89 points, 1,307 total yards and a combined total of 200 plays. It was fast-paced, run-and-gun style of football that featured virtually no defense.

Here are some stats for you. Both Minutemen inside linebackers, Jovan Santos-Knox (58 tackles) and Stanley Andre (57) are second and third in the country for tackles, respectively. Blake Frohnapfel is eighth in the country in passing yards (1,471), ahead of last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and this year’s favorites Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Brett Hundley of UCLA.

And for you fantasy gurus out there, Frohnapfel finished 36-for-61 with 589 passing yards – a new school record – and five touchdown passes, tying another program mark. I have no idea how to calculate the points, but I know it’s a lot more than Tom Brady has put up in a single game this season.

But of the 17,000 fans that piled into the newly renovated McGuirk Stadium, how many of them actually saw Frohnapfel’s record-breaking performance? Less than half I would imagine. By halftime nearly the entire far bleachers were empty, leaving only a few dedicated students to stick out and watch what turned out to be a compelling football game.

The majority of the students that attended have probably never watched a UMass football game in their life. It was the first game on campus in nearly three years, and with a team that has only won two games in three seasons in big boy football, a 26-21 score should probably have kept even the smallest of football fans interested.

The most popular excuse that students used for leaving: “It was too hot.”

Seriously, people?

We practically live in the Amazon with the amount of humidity we experience in our New England summers. An 80-degree day to cap off the end of summer is not an excuse. Besides, how many people are going to be complaining about wanting warm weather the second we get our first snowfall of the year?

Everyone was wearing their maroon and white Minutemen gear, but they didn’t care. The students were too busy worry about protecting the rep of “ZooMass” and making sure the pregame parties were bigger than the game itself.

Am I drastically over generalizing? Maybe a little, but we live in a region that has been driven by our professional sports team’s success. Sports are the backbone of New Englanders, and this school’s athletics have been vastly overshadowed for as long as I’ve been alive.

Maybe a few more wins will keep students in their seats for an extra quarter or so, but when it’s all said and done, the Minutemen need more support from everyone.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected], and can be followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.


17 Responses to “Cyr: Are UMass students actually football fans?”

  1. tom massetti on September 29th, 2014 10:01 am

    Couldn’t agree with you more . . very embarrassing to watch on TV also!

  2. Ray Soares on September 29th, 2014 10:15 am

    Very disappointed in the UMass student section. The team, their classmates, need and deserve their support. Come on UMass students! Do better!

  3. Bob Davidson on September 29th, 2014 12:12 pm

    ^this. For the students to whine and complain for two years about the ride to Gillette, well you finally got a football game. Nuff said.

  4. Class of 2013 on September 29th, 2014 1:56 pm

    It was a very poor showing by the students. You are not wrong in saying most only care about “ZooMass.” I say most beacaue there are some who care. I see the student fan base getiing larger and that’s a good thing.

    Let us also not overlook how much this team has improved. I fear that is getting lost in thestudents leaving early mania.

  5. Minutefan1 on September 29th, 2014 3:59 pm

    One thing I have to know, maybe someone in the athletics office can answer. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the UMASS fans weren’t on the shady side of the stadium???! I did stay the entire game, but switched sides because we were absolutely baking on the metal seats. And you look over and there’s Bowling Green and their fans, nice and cool in the shade. That’s just dumb. So you want more people in the stands, here’s the answers.
    A) win games
    B) Reward your Home fans with shade. And finally…
    C) Sell cold beer! Don’t know if you know this, but when you’re hot and you’re sitting for 4 hours, cold beer tastes good. We can handle it Umass athletics. Seriously

  6. M on September 29th, 2014 4:18 pm

    It is the faithful band parents That go to every game and support the band and the team. Without all of them, I am afraid to see how the stadium would look then. Very sad to see. It is unfortunate but besides BC, college football is not big in MA. We are a pro state. I hope this changes in the future.

  7. UMass Student on September 29th, 2014 5:52 pm

    Give us a team that can win games, and we’ll stay for the game.

  8. New Minutemen Fan on September 29th, 2014 6:59 pm

    The analysis in this piece is spot-on. There are a few points that I would like to add to give a fuller view of my experience on gameday. Firstly, this is my first year at the University of Massachusetts. As a student, I have attended and spent considerable times at sporting events of institutions that play in the Colonial Athletic Association, Ivy League, and B1G. One could say that I have experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows in college-football culture. The Bowling Green-Massachusetts game was the first chance that I have had to experience a UMass football game in person although I have watched several on television and online. I have to admit that I found aspects of the gameday experience to be simultaneously satisfying and disappointing.

    When approaching the stadium, seeing the sprawling tailgating scene was somewhat surprising. It was nearly B1G-level. There needs to be a slight emphasis on “nearly.” Its scale was great and I did appreciate the obvious sense of camaraderie and connection that college sports at their best imbues. However, it was disgusting how much trash and broken glass found its way to the ground of the tailgating areas. I have attended tailgates and games at Beaver Stadium at Penn State and never seen so much accumulated rubbish on the ground. It shows a lack of respect for the University, other fans, and those who are tasked with picking up the mess. This was the first moment of appreciation tinged with disappointment. Also, on the B1G-comparison front, too much can be made of the size of the B1G institutions. The University of Massachusetts with its 27,269 students is larger than the University of Nebraska with its enrollment total of 24,593. As all college-football spectators know, gameday at Lincoln is a phenomenal experience akin to those in Ann Arbor, Columbus, Madison, and University Park. So, Massachusetts can reach those levels if fervor can be maintained and culture re-discovered from UMass’ golden era of Division IAA championships.

    The in-stadium experience during the first half of the game was upsetting. One is unsure where to begin. From the undifferentiated noise of the student section that served to disorient Frohnapfel’s ability to lead is offense to the near silence from the same section while UMass’ defense was on the field, the experience was odd. However, what was truly unsettling was the resort to homophobic and sexist slurs to insult the players and fans of Bowling Green. I attended games at Beaver Stadium for three years while I was a student. I never once heard such comments in any section of the Stadium and never among the student section. Students and fans who resort to such insults represent their universities and their values poorly. The comments I heard were early, frequent, and repetitive. This was far more than the stray call of profanity after a bad call that one expects from a collegiate audience.

    However, after the crowd thinned after the end of the first quarter and the half, I found myself surrounded by fans who understood the game of football and relished the opportunity to support their University. It was the second half that redeemed my first football-game experience at McGuirk Stadium. Fans were rapt, supportive, and tended to contribute to the on-field activities in a constructive rather than destructive way. They rose and fell with each success and failure. They wanted to see Whipple and his team succeed. I appreciated every second of it. As I left and returned to the debris-laden lots, the support of these fans who stayed for the remainder of the game until the result was certain made my first gameday at McGuirk worthwhile. I will return. The students who stayed were real football fans who cared for their University.

    As a lifelong football fan who has had the chance to watch great football and experience great football culture, I can say that I love watching this team from UMass every week. They have made great strides with Whipple both before and during this season. There are few teams that I have enjoyed supporting more. However, the loyal cadre that stayed to support the team after the game, they were the purist of fans and students, and Massachusetts needs to grow that level of support and avoid tendencies to debase themselves through ill treatment of their home, socially unacceptable forms of insulting opponents, and early departures. The football at the University of Massachusetts will grow to be great again. Let’s hope that the student section at McGuirk can learn and have as rapid a turnaround as Whipple will lead on the field.

  9. Rodney Byrd on September 29th, 2014 8:01 pm

    Thank you so much for your comments.

    It was HOT, I was hot, the cheerleaders and band were hotter and the players were even hotter. The performers on the field are students – the fellow students of the students who had somewhere more important to go, while the players were asking for the crowd to support them – and we yelled and yelled and it got even hotter. I laud the students and other fans who did stick it out. The team played hard, and fell just short of winning. And in the end, we did win, taking another giant step forward in our march towards athletic and academic excellence, and the exposure that such bring to our University.

    TEAM includes every member of UMass Nation. And we each can make a difference in support of each other, in athletics and otherwise. GO UMASS.

    On a lighter note: perhaps the athletic department can sell/give separate tickets for each half!!

    Rodney Byrd
    UMass 1977

  10. Stephen on September 29th, 2014 9:47 pm

    Although I agree that it is a shame that very few students actually show interest in the football team, I am not in an outrage. Being a big hockey fan myself, I do not get upset when I see a short turn out for the hockey games, which I think usually gets decent support. What it comes down to is the fact that we don’t live and love football like colleges in the Midwest and South of the country do. I don’t think you can be mad at Umass students for at least trying to support their team, when in reality, they don’t really care. The football team is a good example of an inflated program that clearly is not supported by many students but is funded by the university to publicize Umass so the school can, in theory, get on the same level as other big division one schools and make more money. I for one, would like to see that money put elsewhere, than see a football program, that is hemorrhaging money, have no one care about it, except the people making money off of it and a handful of students. Any more money, which is our money, taxpayers’ money, and the state’s money, that is given to the football program is money wasted. I understand that the sports programs help to bring in revenue but the football program is simply too weak to actually make money. So, as angry as you are, I am twice as angry when I see how much the university puts into the football team and I still have to go to class in a building that is lined with asbestos. So don’t shame me for not supporting a program that doesn’t benefit the students, and definitely don’t shame the students who actually went and tried to care. I’m sorry I’m not enough of a football fan to sympathize but if the students don’t support it, it shouldn’t be supported financially by the university.

  11. William Finley on September 29th, 2014 11:04 pm

    Can it be possible that the analysis that resulted in the decision to move up to Big Boy Football was deeply flawed? Might UMASS have found a conference with more local appeal? Is it too late to turn back?

    Just a few of the questions haunting this old alumnus.

  12. friend and parent on September 30th, 2014 12:39 pm

    Actually went to the game to see a friends daughter cheer on the Minuteman, yes it was hot and we watched the second half from the shade at the foot of the stands. It seems as though UMASS was not ready for this event, stadium with gravel entry and absolutely no lights on in the tunnels under the seats when the games was over. I was within feet of the gate to go in when the jumbo tv came crashing down…thankful no one was hurt but had quite the scare as it sounded like a cannon was going off next to me.

    Yes I’ve been tail gaiting before and did for this game as well…UMASS students should be ashamed of the mess left behind, we were actually nervous driving our car out of the lot. I’m pretty sure everyone received a trash bag from rotc students on the way in. DISGUSTING!

  13. Class of '93 on September 30th, 2014 1:43 pm

    After two years of exile at Gillette — the university catering to alumni and Boston sports fans at the expense of its own students — I figured that the students would be excited to have the football team back on campus where it belongs.

    What they really wanted was cheap beer in cans. So much so that they left the game to get more and never came back.

    But maybe that was for the best. New Minuteman Fan pointed out the homophobic and sexist slurs in the stadium, which is way more embarrassing than having the student section empty out at halftime. Gee, do you think there’s a correlation between that behavior and the amount of drinking debris observed in the parking lot?

    I can break cause and effect relationship down for you in two words: “Blarney Blowout.”

  14. Itoldyouso on September 30th, 2014 5:20 pm

    Why does UMass waste money on sports that no one cares about? If funding is so tight that we can’t pay grad workers on time or give our workers decent benefits it seems like money pits like this have to go.

  15. Tessa L on September 30th, 2014 9:33 pm

    I am a student and a HUGE UMASS football fan. I was in the student section and it was extremely hot,.I couldn’t stay there anymore so I moved to the other side. Everyone, even whipple, knew the students were going to leave early, at least they showed up. They have to get a few wins or a big one before students stay. But when I went to the other side with other students, the older fans left early too. So yes the student section left, but so did the other fans that had no excuse.

  16. Frustrated Senior Fan on October 1st, 2014 6:47 pm

    I mostly agree with your piece. I wish more students attended the games. But I partially blame whomever is in charge of ticket sales for the low attendance. I watch almost every game on ESPN 3, and know how high ranking some of our players stats are. I was both frustrated and excited during the Colorado and Vanderbilt games. I was excited to go to my first game since freshman year.

    The problem? Tickets sold out long before I even realized you had to buy tickets. I hit up the Facebook groups to try and find one, but people were offering/asking for $50 a ticket. I don’t have $50 to throw down for a ticket to a football game. I don’t understand why I couldn’t just flash my student ID to get in. Just so that we could say we “sold out” our first game back?

    Lots of Alumni and parents of students came, which is great. But I’m also upset because they were able to go when I wasn’t. I felt I missed out on a great opportunity as a student so that somebody else could relive their glory days, or seem like a cool parent by tailgating with their kid. Again I think it’s great that they came and supported, but I wish every student that wanted to go could.

    Or, UMPD could have let me stay past 2:30 at the tailgate. I get they wanted to prevent any potential riots or over rowdiness and I support that. But if I was allowed to stay another hour or so, it would become apparent that there were open seats in the student section, and they could have let people with valid student IDs but no tickets file in.

    I will admit at the end of the day, it’s my fault that I wasn’t proactive in getting myself a ticket. I just want to point out that there were a lot of people who don’t care for football at the tailgate with a ticket, that either didn’t go in or left early, while there were a lot of us watching the game on out laptops back home.

  17. K Flynn on October 1st, 2014 10:46 pm

    UMASS fans who left the parking lot filled with trash obviously have no respect for the University, environment, or themselves. It was a disgusting display of excess.

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