LSU is in a fight. A fight for championships and for relevance in a college football landscape chock full with programs thirsting for big-time success.
It’s more than the players on the field and the coaches conjuring up the schemes and plays that determine victory. It’s a team game, and it requires a team effort.
For LSU and its fans, it requires Tiger Stadium being Tiger Stadium again.
Frankly, this season, the old girl hasn’t been her old self. With a capacity of 102,321, Tiger Stadium hasn’t seen a sellout this season. The closest “official” attendance was 101,601 for the Auburn game. A glance around the stadium told you that day that it was three-fourths full at best, though it must be said those who stayed to the end made the old bowl rock with the best of times, especially for a day game.
Sure, there have been extenuating circumstances for the empty seats in Tiger Stadium this year, starting with LSU’s September to forget when it (all together now) lost 37-7 to Mississippi State and 24-21 to Troy. Many folks gave up on the Tigers then and there.
There’s no avoiding the Christmas spirit for LSU football players.
Then there was baking heat for the 2:30 p.m. CBS kickoff for the Auburn game. I completely understand how people, especially those sitting in the sun-bleached east stands, couldn’t stand it. I wouldn’t want to sit for four hours in direct sunlight. There were also plenty of empty seats for LSU's most recent home game, which kicked off at 11 a.m. against Arkansas.
But circumstances are different going into LSU’s regular-season finale Saturday against Texas A&M. The Tigers have won five of six since the Trojan horse Troy debacle. And according to the forecast, you couldn’t ask for better conditions for a game than Saturday: clear skies (chance of rain: never), highs in the mid-70s, temperatures probably dropping into the 60s by the time the Tigers and Aggies kickoff at 6:30 p.m.
Texas A&M isn’t Alabama in terms of star power (or hate), but it is LSU’s closest natural Southeastern Conference rival, and a dangerous team that has gotten to 7-4 with wins over New Mexico and Ole Miss.
To recap, it’s going to be a night game in Tiger Stadium under almost ideal conditions against a potent rival. What reason is there not to come to the game, to fill up the stadium just once for old time’s sake?
Granted, there are other considerations. It is Thanksgiving weekend and many folks are traveling. It’s hunting season. There are Christmas sales at the mall. Fine. But if you can’t make it and you have tickets, why not put them in the hands of someone who can go — someone for whom the spectacle of a night SEC game in Tiger Stadium is a rare or perhaps first-time event?
Foster Moreau recalls the time he first heard of the man named Johnny Manziel.
Certainly, people are at their discretion on how to spend their discretionary dollars — even if it means buying football tickets and letting them collect dust on a shelf unused. But don’t think that attendance and atmosphere doesn’t matter to the overall success of a program like LSU’s. It does.
We give you the comments of Mr. Kardell Thomas. An offensive guard from Southern Lab, Thomas is a 2019 LSU commitment. He’s a five-star prospect, the No. 2 overall prospect in Louisiana for 2019 and the No. 17 prospect nationally, according to 247sports.com.
Thomas made a visit to Georgia this past weekend for the Bulldogs’ 42-13 romp over Kentucky. He left with quite a favorable impression according to DawgNation.com, a website covering Georgia athletics. A favorable impression at LSU’s expense.
“I like how Georgia is just (turned) up,” Thomas said. “They really are electrified from the beginning all the way to the end. From the Dawgwalk all the way to the end of the game. With LSU, I’m not saying they are boring. But there are times. I think everybody in the nation knows with LSU fans that if (the Tigers) are not doing good, then (the crowd) is going to let you know and (they) are going to boo you.”
Georgia started slowly Saturday before pulling away for the big win.
“They didn’t get out of their mindset to support their team thinking they were going to lose,” Thomas said. “I think LSU fans are kind of wishy-washy with that.”
Kevin Sumlin is out at Texas A&M — no matter the result of the Aggies' game against LSU on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
Granted, this is the view of just one prospect. A prospect LSU is likely to keep close to home. And Georgia is having one of its best seasons in years, having wrapped up the SEC East title with a chance to still make the College Football Playoff semifinals.
But atmosphere and fan support do make a difference. Again, people are free to come or not come to a game, though personally I think you shouldn’t boo college athletes. But it’s hard to justify holding LSU to a high standard of success, where a career 77 percent winning percentage can get you fired, if you’re not willing to hold up your end of the bargain.
LSU fans think of themselves and Tiger Stadium as being the greatest in college football. There’s no excuse for not living up to that reputation Saturday night.