I don’t look at college baseball that often on this site. The biggest problem with exploring the trends of college baseball is that most of the tickets are given to students for free. So what is the effect of an opponent, a promotion, or starting pitcher when the ticket is free?
Despite the lack of analysis, I do track the overall attendance of the University of South Florida. I think it is necessary when the Bulls draw only 50 people on average less than the Dunedin Blue Jays. People are making a baseball-related choice when they attend games at the USF Baseball Stadium.
Which brings us to last night. As they did in 2014, the Florida State Seminoles visited Tampa to play the USF Bulls. And again the Seminoles attracted a big crowd of visiting fans. In 2014, the FSU vs USF game set a new high attendance record of 3,615 fans. Last night, attendance was slightly lower, only 2,431 fans.
So far in 2016, the Bulls are drawing more fans than they did in 2016 through their first 11 games:
- 2015: 763
- 2016: 866
That’s a good sign for the up and coming program.
USF games against the Seminoles or the Gators of the University of Florida are a good reminder that fans are rarely likely to put aside their original rooting interests just because they move to a new city. Fans who developed a fandom in Tallahassee or Gainesville are not going to start rooting for the Bulls just because they live in Tampa. This is important when Tampa area sports fans bemoan fans from out of town for rooting for their hometown baseball, hockey, or football teams.
Like the Rays, the Bulls have a very difficult climb in making Tampa a Bulls-centric city. With some many alumni from other Florida schools in Tampa, college loyalties will always be divided. But as USF grows in attendees and alumni, and as it grows in prestige and reputation, perhaps it will become more ingrained in the rooting fabric of the city. Maybe then we will see folks in Tampa wearing green and gold who did not attend USF. That would be a welcome shift from the current phenomenon of folks who attend USF wearing another university’s colors.
Much has been written about the USF Sports Marketing Department. Winning the hearts and minds of Tampa might be the department’s biggest challenge.