With last year’s fantastic all-around athletic season in the books, the Ragin’ Cajuns took the time to thank their fans for the support Sunday night in the Cajundome during University of Louisiana at Lafayette fan day.
The first hour of the event was a gradual buildup of energy and momentum until the football team arrived. Coaches from small sports teams introduced themselves to the fans who entered the free event. Most of them milled around in the area where the football team would enter, clutching a free T-shirt, poster or autograph pennant.
By the time football coach Mark Hudspeth took the stage, the sea of red-clad fans roared into applause and Hudspeth tapped into the crowd’s energy.
“I can’t wait to get this season started, and it’s going to get started in a little less than six days,” Hudspeth said. “It’s going to be a packed house, packed stadium; you better get there early to get your seats, or you’re going to be standing!”
Hudspeth then led the crowd in a cheer.
“I want to vibrate this Cajundome so much that the banners start coming down off the wall!”
It was a successful night for the Cajuns’ athletic department. Eric Maron, the Ragin’ Cajuns director of athletics marketing and promotions, said there were approximately 3,500 to 4,000 people in attendance Sunday, roughly the same amount of people who showed up last year. The event is nonticketed, so a precise attendance number couldn’t be taken, but fans continued to file through the Cajundome’s doors even after the supply of 3,000 free T-shirts had been exhausted.
Organizers used a little bit of a different strategy this year as almost all fall sports shared the Cajundome floor, one side of which was covered in a mock football surface that included painted yard lines, the other side covered with a basketball court. In past years, the men’s and women’s basketball teams would hold their fan day closer to the start of their season, which begins in November.
The common theme for the smaller sports? Take advantage of the crowd that gathered to see the football team to spread the word about the schedule.
Every fall sport except cross country, golf and soccer — the team was in Hammond for a match with Southeastern — was represented at this year’s fan day. Moran said it was easier to organize from a logistical standpoint, and it gave basketball players and coaches a chance to see a larger and more diverse audience.
The basketball coaches recognized their opportunity, using the time in front of the large group of fans to make a pitch. Women’s basketball coach Garry Brodhead closed his time at the podium by asking for 1,000 people to attend his games, and men’s coach Bob Marlin followed a similar track as he reminded the fans that his team was the only college team from the state to make it to March Madness last season.
“When we go to the New Orleans Bowl and get 30-plus thousand, we need to put 5- to 10-thousand at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans to help us get back to the NCAA tournament,” Marlin said. “… We’re excited about our future and the direction we’re headed. We need you to come support us and bring friends. We want to lead the league in attendance this year.”