One by one, in a slow, steady stream, they pulled up to the northeast corner of the A.W. Mumford Field House early this week, reaching the Southern University ticket office however they could.
Fans drove there in brand-new Navigators and rusted old pickups. They drove there in Corvettes, Neons, on Harley-Davidsons and everything in between.
The die-hard fans may have been a little late to the party. They may have waited ’til the last few days to snap up seats for Saturday’s home opener against Alabama A&M.
The SU football team has to hope that for the rest of this week, and on game day, thousands more will keep coming.
In many respects, Saturday should be attractive.
According to the National Weather Service, the forecast calls for sunny skies, a high of 88 degrees and a low of 61. Beautiful.
The smells and tastes, as always, will be robust, because no matter what happens, we know this: the Jaguar Nation knows how to cook, eat and party.
The sounds should inspire. The Human Jukebox will be there, guaranteed. This time, they don’t have to get on a faulty bus.
In other words, Saturday is tailor-made for a good football crowd.
But two major things are holding many fans back.
Wins and losses.
Over the past few years, there were too few of the former, way too many of the latter.
One year ago, Southern was coming off a great win against Delaware State, but the home opener was a dud. Some 14,637 fans watched the Jaguars get pounded by Division II Arkansas-Monticello, and thousands of them responded by going AWOL. The final two home games drew less than 9,000 each.
The year before, only 6,463 came out for a Thursday home finale against Prairie View, which turned out to be Pete Richardson’s last game in A.W. Mumford Stadium.
It’s easy to understand the fans’ indifference. They’re disenchanted with the rough news coming out of the university lately.
Just two days ago, the SU Board of Supervisors voted against a move to declare a state of financial emergency on the main campus.
They’re disenchanted with the football team, which went 2-9 last fall, then got hit with a postseason ban because of its poor Academic Progress Rate.
Then there was last weekend.
Before the Jaguars’ season-opening 33-7 loss at Tennessee State, Stump Mitchell himself said he believed his team needed a win to drastically boost ticket sales.
That didn’t happen.
Mitchell still genuinely believes he’ll win at Southern — and once the team wins, the fans will come.
In the meantime, the coach has slightly altered his message. And believe it or not, he made a decent point.
“What you’ve got to do is help your university out,” he said. “Forget who’s coaching.”
Southern has to hope that its fans will listen.