So here’s something that might be news to most of the Duke campus: the football team starts its season tomorrow.
Actually, for all I know, most of the students may know that and a couple thousand may turn up for the “Bull City Gridiron Classic,” which is clearly a classic in its third installment since 2009.
And if you don’t know that, it’s not necessarily your fault, either.
I’ll be there, I’m just not sure how many others will be, students at least. Last year’s opener against Florida International garnered 31,117 fans, the fewest for an opener in the Cutcliffe era. Of those, 2,715 were students, which represents 91 percent of the official capacity of the student section. After the team’s success last season, will those numbers be topped this year?
I suspect Duke vs. N.C. Central attracts some buzz around Durham—it’s the Bull City Gridiron Classic!—but it certainly doesn’t around campus. There may be more excitement for this afternoon’s field hockey game against Indiana, considering some of the field hockey players were outside the Bryan Center yesterday promising free pizza at the game. Few things are important to college students, and free pizza is one of them.
All of it’s a shame in some respects too. Duke made its first bowl game since 1994 last season and should win five, six or possibly seven games this year. So when the team may be respectable again this year, and the team had moments like Renfree-to-Crowder and students storming the field after clinching a bowl berth against North Carolina, what’s the hold up for the start of 2013?
There isn’t any singular reason why I feel like there’s such a lack of excitement around the start of the season.
Part of it has to fall on student leaders (DSG, IFC, CollegiateACB posters, etc.), who have failed to organize any sort of tailgate or well-publicized pre-game festivity. There haven’t been emails, fliers, DukeAlerts or anything about something happening before the game. I’m not even talking about Tailgate with a capital T, which deserves a little bit poured out for it every Saturday.
At least last year when there was “Football Gameday”—even though it flopped—there was something going on to bring attention to the fact that there was a home football game going on that Saturday. Some of the blame probably should fall on the administration too, but realistically the impetus has to come from students to organize something.
Reasonably, part of the blame has to fall on the student body too, not just leaders. Not many students, myself included, invested time or effort into making Football Gameday a thing, so it’s not exactly fair to expect another event. The seniors, the Last of the Tailgaters, may not accept any pregame festivity unless it involves shotgunning Four Lokos (R.I.P.), beer showers and spandex. Maybe a reasonable alternative may only come along once we’re all gone.
And then there are the powers that be who make the schedule. Scheduling N.C. Central for the first game of the year has obvious advantages: an expected victory and a theoretical rivalry within Durham. Sure, the students would rather see a win than a loss, but I think students would also rather see Duke play a good game against a team that has a shred of national relevance. It’s a whole lot easier to get excited about going to see a potential good win than an expected win.
So it’s difficult to pinpoint why exactly there’s no fervor around the fact that an ACC school is kicking off its football season Saturday, and I haven’t even mentioned how the football team fights an uphill battle to remain relevant at a “basketball school.”
I know I’ll be there, and I hope other students are too. Not because they should—I’ve never bought into the idea that students have a responsibility to go to games. But football games are really fun, and I think when people go they’ll have fun too, especially if the team makes some noise again. If only it weren’t so difficult to get excited about game one.