Salukis to build on growing football attendance trend

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By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

Saluki football had its first increase in average attendance since the inception of Saluki Stadium in 2010. 

The average attendance rose by more than 7 percent to 9,155 attendees per game last year. 

Since the opening of Saluki Stadium, attendance has steadily declined until 2014, going from an average attendance of 10,890 in 2010 to 8,554 in 2013.

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Athletic Director Tommy Bell, who was hired on May 1, said he and the athletic department plan to reuse a lot of last year’s plans to draw more fans into the stadium.

Bell said the athletics marketing team noticed declining attendance two years ago, so it implemented a plan targeting more students to come to games through community based, on-campus and social media. It resulted in a 49 percent increase in student attendance from 2013 to 2014.

He said postgame fireworks were a big hit and will be returning for SIU’s three home night games this season. 

Bell said he hopes promotions like “Black Out Cancer,” “Scout Night” and “Military Appreciation Night” will continue to improve attendance. 

Coach Dale Lennon believes the quality of opponents attracts fans.

“If a person says they’re a football fan, why wouldn’t they want to come out on Saturday and see the lineup that we have?” Lennon said in a press conference Monday.

SIU’s home schedule includes the No. 1, 2, 14 and 16 ranked teams in the preseason Football Championship Subdivision polls. 

The Salukis also face the unranked Missouri State Bears on Oct. 10. 

“If we can’t get big crowds to those games, then people just don’t like football,” Lennon said.

Senior safety D.J. Cameron said he noticed the attendance begin declining during his Saluki career.

Senior quarterback Mark Iannotti said crowds can influence the game.  

“Home field advantage really comes into play especially for quarterbacks,” he said. “If your fans are on their feet screaming while the opposing offense is on the field, it gets hard to fight through that noise level.”

The Salukis open the season at 3 p.m. Saturday at Indiana, with the home opener at 6 p.m. Sept. 26 against Liberty University.

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @SCarleyDE

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