Football game attendance rising steadily at Bowers Stadium
Published: Monday, November 5, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 23:11
In 2011, former Houstonian Sports Editor Zach Birdsong wrote an in-your-face article entitled “Occupy Bowers” criticizing Bearkat fans for their infamous low attendance records at the Sam Houston football games. Since then, Bearkat Nation has responded with a phenomenal movement.
In 2012, the recent surge of orange and white, or “Bearkatmosphere,” has been hard not to notice. Over time, Bowers Stadium has steadily bounced more and more decibels off the backside of Newton Gresham Library.
The Bearkats averaged a regular season home attendance of only 6,000 fans in 2009 and 6,337 in 2010; with a low of 2,817 fans against Central Arkansas in 2009. In the marquee undefeated 2011 season, Bowers housed 7,190 fans per contest. The team’s following, of course, drastically increased in 2012, tacking on 2,162 more fans per game with 9,352. The attendance record of 26,185 at the “Battle of the Piney Woods” this season at Reliant Stadium also spoke volumes of the epidemic, bringing the show to an NFL.
Quarterback Brian Bell, often considered the nucleus of the new spirit swell, credits the crowd for playing a vital role in the game’s momentum at Bowers Stadium and on the road. “The fans here at Sam Houston have obviously changed over the past three years,” Bell said.
“Going into Baylor and having a great crowd gave us a lot of confidence… I remember a couple times our defense was on the field and it’s usually supposed to be quiet in a big venue like that, but our fans got loud and helped draw a couple off-side penalties. Even here at Bowers, the numbers are growing. Our crowd, showing the support that they do, gives us a lot of confidence going into these home games knowing we have a true home-field advantage.”
Understandably so, this phenomenon is said to be a direct bi-product of the FCS National Championship appearance, an undefeated football season, a March Madness appearance, three straight Orange Pride titles, a Co-ed Cheer title, and a National Rodeo Championship all within a few years.
The “SHSU Call Me Maybe” video swept YouTube, numerous Bearkat plays were featured on Sports Center’s “Top Plays”, and the program received larger venue invitations (Reliant Stadium, Pizza Hut Park and Kyle Field). All of these ripples in the media support one notion: Bearkat Nation is for real.
The Sam Houston spirit has not stopped with just infecting the student body. Dean of Students John Yarabeck came out on the winning side of a light-hearted bet with Stephen F. Austin’s Dean of Students earlier this season. After the 51-43 victory over the Lumberjacks, SFA’s dean was sentenced to wearing an orange neck-tie around Nacogdoches for a day. Yarabeck, who has consistently bled orange for the last decade, admitted the bet was proof school spirit is at its highest.
“The comparison is night and day,” Yarabeck said. “When I first got here, you’d almost see as many other school shirts as you did Sam Houston shirts. To be honest, everything was kind of revolving around people going to class—which they need to do—but there wasn’t that sense of pride that there certainly is now. Now you go and it’s hard not to see people in orange shirts.
“The whole school coming together and generating spirit feeds on everything. It’s like momentum, when you start winning games; the players learn how to win. When you start having spirit, like when the Kat Krazies were created about five years ago, that puts it up a notch too. Guys painted out in orange banging on a metal sign…that kind of unnerves the opposition.
“All these things worked together and generated positive feeling for our sports teams and a real pride in SHSU. What’s not to be proud of? Look at how the student body has grown- the word is getting out. It all fits together for the betterment of our university.”