The annual “Tommie-Johnnie” football game, featuring historic rivals University of St. Thomas and St. John’s University, drew a crowd of 14,286 to Clemens Stadium at St. John’s University on Sept. 15. Picture that scene. Nearly 15,000 fans at a Division-III football game. St. John’s only houses about 4,000 undergraduate students.
The MIAC is known for its member schools consistently having the highest average attendance rates at football games in the country. Assisted in large part by both St. John’s and St. Thomas, the MIAC averaged more fans last year than seven of the 15 Division-III conferences.
Despite the great attendance numbers in the conference, St. Olaf greatly underperforms in the number of fans who come out to show their pride. Last year, the Ole football team had a successful season, going 8-2 overall and 6-2 in the conference. Yet, the Oles only had the sixth-highest attendance of the nine teams in the conference, only beating out Hamline, Carleton and Augsburg, and were over 1,000 fans below the MIAC average. This means that too many students on the Hill are spending their Saturdays studying or something along those lines. A team that goes 6-2 in the talent-laden MIAC should have a large and loyal fan following that does not just attend Homecoming and games against Carleton. St. Olaf needs to break free from being known as a music school and show that we are the most multi-faceted school in the conference.
Never is a St. Olaf football game’s attendance going to be compared to schools such as the University of Wisconsin or Auburn University, but it would be nice to show other schools in the MIAC that we too have pride in our team. Maybe one day a St. Olaf game could garner the same crowds and headlines that the Tommie-Johnnie games do. It would be nice to have every parking spot filled with fans coming from all areas. In other words, reverberations of “Um! Yah! Yah!” should be heard all the way at the Malt-O-Meal factory.
These sentiments don’t apply solely to football. Students at St. Olaf and all schools in the MIAC need to broaden their mindsets as to which sporting events to attend. Second-tier sports games are oftentimes misunderstood by the population at large and can be extremely intense and exciting if you know what’s going on. Sure, some sports like cross-country running and Nordic skiing are difficult to watch because the athletes travel far away from the spectators, but it’s unfortunate that much of the crowd at these competitions is made up of parents and friends. These sports aren’t known to have student sections, but maybe they should.
By the end of your four years here at St. Olaf, make it a personal challenge to attend at least one competition of every male and female varsity sport. For extra points, include club sports as well. For all you know, you could have a pent-up passion for wrestling that has yet to be unleashed. Or maybe your talents in math could lead to a great love for baseball and its statistical nature. Simply give a different sport a chance. St. Olaf is home to a large group of student-athletes, and they don’t get the praise and attention that they deserve.