Winning will bring back fans

Ted Roof isn't getting any love. Two straight top-notch recruiting classes, but only one Division I-A win since being named full-time head coach at the beginning of 2004.

Instead of rallying behind the coach's workaholic attitude and exciting vision for the program, Duke fans are staying away from Wallace Wade like Adrian Peterson from class. Last Saturday's attendance was the lowest in nearly four decades, and the week before there were more fans from Virginia Tech than from Duke.

Roof has said a few times over the past few weeks that the sparse crowd doesn't bother him and that it doesn't affect the team's play. There's no way that's true. It must feel awful to sweat through two-a-day practices, endless cycles of meetings and long weightlifting sessions only to have the stadium less than one-third full for the first win of the season.

Roof is either in denial or is purposely playing down the effects of the thin crowds to coddle his team. The truth is, as the Duke faithful know well, fans do make a difference. When people come to games, the noise pumps up the home team and intimidates opponents. All Duke football has to do is look next door at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where for years opposing teams have left town shaking their heads because the crowd has gotten to them. Just ask Virginia Tech basketball head coach Seth Greenberg about his first experience with the crazies.

Many people have recently tried to solve the problem of poor student attendance at football games. Administrators have encouraged students to go to games through a number of initiatives, most recently by ending tailgates at kickoff. Others have offered suggestions too.

But if history can teach us anything, there's one thing that brings Duke fans to games-Winning.

Rewind to 1994. It was one of the most backward years in Duke athletics in recent memory. Behind head coach Fred Goldsmith, the football team went 8-4 and lost the Hall of Fame Bowl to Wisconsin.

At the beginning of the year, 20,831 people showed up to watch Maryland play Duke. Once the fan base realized how good the football team was that year, home crowds steadily increased. ESPN broadcasted a Thursday night game against Army (when was the last time Duke played on a Thursday?).

In that season's final home game against UNC, more than 41,000 fans packed Wallace Wade-well beyond the 33,941-seat capacity-to see the Blue Devils fall in a nail biter to their rivals.

That spring, something equally surprising happened. With Mike Krzyzewski out for the season due to a back injury, the men's basketball team finished last in the ACC and the student section of Cameron Indoor Stadium wasn't even filling up, said Chris Kennedy, Duke's senior associate athletic director.

Though that was the only serious case in recent memory of a decline in basketball attendance-after all they've been pretty good the rest of the time-Duke fans have shown their tendency to come out in hoards for winners.

In 1989 the Dave Brown-led football team, under the guidance of head coach Steve Spurrier, won eight games and drew fan interest. More than 42,000 fans rocked the stadium for a late season battle against N.C. State.

Last year when the men's soccer team began the season 11-0 and was creeping up the national rankings, more than 6,300 people swarmed Koskinen Stadium for a night contest.

The point is, just win baby. The fans will come and for now, it's just tough love.


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