WVU first-year head football coach Dana Holgersen ignited a firestorm of controversy in Mountaineer nation – and beyond - when he called out WVU fans for failing to fill the seats last Saturday when the Mounties hosted Bowling Green. Over forty thousand showed up. WVU’s home field seats more than sixty thousand. Weather conditions were not great. It was cold, wet and Bowling Green is not a major draw. Still Holgersen used his Tuesday press conference to “call out” Mountaineer fans and wonder aloud what happened to the Mountaineer faithful he’s heard so much about.
OK, let’s start with the obvious: This is not the way to win over fans as a first-year head coach and the athletic department couldn’t have sold a seat after Tuesday’s remarks. However,the controversy that has ensued misses the real point. This isn’t about whether fans did or did not show up. It’s about whether we have an obligation to be there.
WVU coach Dana Holgersen was critical of fans not showing up Saturday in Morgantown. Are the obligated to have to be there?
From Tampa Bay to Morgantown, we have heard from athletes and owners about apathetic fans. Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays have been a play-off contender in recent years and reached the post-season this fall. Tampa Bay fans have let out a big yawn and not shown up en mass. Other franchises throughout history have had issues drawing fans even when they win. Blame it on marketing, economics or location, sometimes fans just don’t show up. Now this may sound like a foreign concept in Pittsburgh where we would never sell our Steeler tickets and even the lowly Pirates just had their fourth best-attended season in team history. However, I think it’s a lot for a team to ask the fans to show up just because they win.
Sports is entertainment, pure and simple. It’s no different from the performing arts, the movie theatres or a music club. It’s a diversion from the everyday issues of life and it tends to be one of the more expensive getaways. This notion of having to “support” the home team is more about history than it is about modern-day life. We all have limited funds to spend on our free time and we should be able to choose where and when we spend it. Are we really “obligated” to support the home team?
I love sports and love going to games, but I shouldn’t be told when I have to go. I don’t think anyone should have to sit in the rain and cold. It should be an option and it should be up to us whether we choose to do so or not. If we don’t want to sit in the elements, it doesn’t make us any less a fan than those who do.
Coach Holgersen can share his feelings and frustrations about the fans of West Virginia. However, he should realize that the fans have the right to determine how invested they want to be. After all, they are fans and last I checked, they are the spending their hard-earned dollars. Nobody has the right to tell anyone how to spend their entertainment dollars … no matter how successful they are on the field.