Has everything calmed down?
If you don’t know what I’m referring to, go back a little more than a week to when the McNeese Sate athletic department released the kickoff times for the regular-season football games. The first three home games — versus Southern University, Alcorn State and Sam Houston State — are scheduled for 6 p.m.
The last three home games — versus Southeastern Louisiana, Houston Baptist and Northwestern State — are scheduled for 4 p.m.
Fans were mad.
I’m not going to say it was a majority of fans. I don’t think so; I honestly have no idea. But there were fans calling for McNeese Athletic Director Bruce Hemphill to be fired and others threatening not to renew their season tickets.
All of this because they moved three game times up by two hours?
I understand that there is the aura of night games in “The Hole” which people want to always associate with McNeese. But since the kickoffs were moved from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the 2014 season, the attendance for 6 p.m. games was at just under 11,112 fans per game. That’s under 65 percent of Cowboy Stadium’s 17,610 capacity. The 2018 game against Central Arkansas had all the ingredients for a sellout: LSU was on a bye week (even Tiger head coach Ed Orgeron was at the game), McNeese was competing for a Southland Conference title, and the game kicked off at 6 p.m.
What was the attendance? A decent 11,208. So kickoff time can’t be the entire issue.
I’ve seen many fans mad at the McNeese athletic department for changing tradition. What tradition? If you want to keep all of the games at night, you have to show that you will attend all of those games at night. Complaining about the lack of attendance then complaining when administrators try to address the matter seems disingenuous.
Of course, the football team has to do its part and put a quality product on the field that will make the fans want to show up on a consistent basis. But we’re not going to know about that until August at the earliest.
Also, let me say that I know that not all Cowboys fans dislike the time changes. There are fans who have young kids who will like getting out of the game about 7:30 p.m. instead of closer to 10 p.m.
For fans concerned about tailgating, I would imagine that all the times will just be moved up two hours. There’s still plenty of time to tailgate, don’t worry about that.
I think a big factor with attendance will be the time proximity to the LSU start times. I get the feeling there are some McNeese fans who don’t want to acknowledge that there are fellow Cowboys fans who are also die-hard Tigers fans. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
I do have one criticism about the schedule: the times aren’t doing enough to avoid LSU start times. The 6 p.m. games start right before LSU night games, and the 4 p.m. games could either force LSU watchers to get up from watching the game (if they kickoff at 2:30 p.m.) or force them to leave a McNeese game early to watch them (if they kickoff at 6:30 p.m.).
It’s tough. There’s no perfect solution in a state where there’s a team with as big a following as LSU. But giving fans enough time to see both games would be a good solution.
All that being said, that is a totally different issue than people being upset about the time change.
One issue I’ve seen brought up is how potential plant and retail workers who want to go to the games will deal with the change. Well, the games don’t happen for another few months, so there should be plenty of time to tell your boss that you want a particular day or weekend off or that you’d rather work earlier that day.
I’ve also seen that fans don’t think the earlier starts won’t work because they haven’t worked in the past. That doesn’t hold weight with me because the sample size is just too small. Since the 2006 season, McNeese has played four games with a kickoff time before 6 p.m. I’m not counting the 2005 season because of the circumstances of Hurricane Rita.
But with so few games played before 6 p.m., I think it’s almost impossible to say whether it will or won’t work.
Another solution to the attendance issues may be to schedule more nearby SWAC schools. The last time Cowboy stadium had attendance over 17,000 was the 2014 home-opener against Prairie View A&M (17,469). And the Southern game will sell out, or come close. Whatever tickets McNeese fans don’t buy, SU fans will happily buy to root on their Jaguars.
I’ve also seen weather brought up as a reason why earlier games won’t work. Fair, except one of the 4 p.m. games is in mid-October and the other in early November. Temperatures should be cooler by then.
But with all the excuses or reasons that I’ve seen, I have this to say: if you want to go to the game, and something important is not in your way, you will go. Game time, weather, clear bags, other teams playing and other issues won’t stop you from supporting McNeese football.
And guess what? If the Cowboys win, Cowboy Stadium will be packed anyway. If that can’t do the trick, then it’s on the fans, not the team or administrators or anybody else.
You can’t please everybody. But I give McNeese credit for trying something different even at the risk of angering some fans.
Give the 4 p.m. games a chance. You never know, you just might like it.
David Berry covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org