It’s difficult to avoid the famous “Field of Dreams” line.
“If you build it, they will come,” the disembodied voice told Kevin Costner through the film.
UNC also heard that call when building the Blue Zone, the $70 million expansion to Kenan Stadium that has recently drawn criticism for not being completely full during the first two UNC football games.
In Tuesday’s DTH, we found that the Blue Zone was at 83 percent capacity for the James Madison win and nearly three-quarters full for the Rutgers victory.
Of course to the naked eye, those numbers seem laughable. But after I posed the question to Twitter, it became clear to me that those numbers are fair and accurate.
The problem is now: Where was everyone else?
Not even a week ago, interim coach Everett Withers wrote a letter to the editor asking students to maintain the “same kind of enthusiasm and passion” for the Rutgers game as they had for JMU. And to the students’ credit, they packed the Tar Pit.
But I wouldn’t be surprised if Withers wrote a letter to the editor of larger state papers urging fans to come to Saturday’s game against Virginia. The gaping holes in the rest of the stands do not concur with the overwhelming cry for a larger importance to be placed on the football program.
Last year, amid NCAA controversy, double-digit player suspensions and academic misconduct, UNC averaged 58,250 fans at home despite having its worst home record (3-3) since the year before Butch Davis took control of the program in 2007.
UNC ranked 30th in the nation in attendance, the highest mark for the program since the 2001 team brought an average of 52,583 fans.
Now that Kenan has expanded from 60,000 seats to nearly 63,000, and the Tar Heels are 2-0, the numbers should see an increase. But with an average of 55,000 fans in the bleachers through Week 2, they have not.
If the reasoning is the heat, then I ask: Isn’t it always hot this time of year? If it’s in protest of UNC’s decisions regarding the program, then I ask: Don’t you know you’re only hurting the players?
And if it’s because James Madison and Rutgers aren’t strong opponents, then I beg: Look at the rest of the schedule.
The lack of marquee home games hurt the odds that Kenan Stadium will “Turn Blue” and improve the chances of its bleachers showing more aluminum. During the third quarter last Saturday, the stadium looked more like Duke’s Wallace Wade than Kenan.
The big-draw tickets for UNC are all on the road: East Carolina, Clemson, N.C. State and Virginia Tech. After this weekend, Chapel Hill will host Louisville, Miami, Wake Forest and Duke.
The fans wanted big-time football, a stadium that could compete with top Division-I schools and, most importantly, a winning team. They got all of it.
Now, where are you?
Contact Jonathan Jones
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