Chattanooga, TN (UTC)– With the Mocs dismal 2008 football season over, one team member hopes the Mocs can drum up more support for the 2009 season.
Blue Cooper, a senior from Rome, Georgia has had enough. “I get tired of seeing UT-Knoxville on the front of the Chattanooga Times,” Cooper said. “You can read about them in the back of the paper.”
The Mocs have begun spring training for 2009, building up their biceps and courage for an exciting season with new head coach Russ Huesman. The questions is whether the Mocs’ dwindling attendance from the past few years will have an affect on the player’s psyches and translate into another losing season.
With an 1-11 record in 2008 and an average attendance of about 5.700, the lack of audience participation is apparent. Many students said they often tailgate before games, but never make it inside the gates.
Martha Rawlings, a long-time library staff member who also works concessions at Finley Stadium, has noticed a sharp decline in attendance. She once was an usher over a section that had no one in it.
“I’ve been working concessions for about four years now and it has gotten worse and worse,” Rawlings said. “We lose money on the games.” She also commented that away teams often appeared to have brought more support than the Mocs could at home.
Cooper, a receiver for the Mocs, said low attendance is a factor. He said he remembers a time when the headsets had stopped working in the fourth quarter. The stadium was so quiet the that the coaches simply yelled out plays to the team on the field. “You shouldn’t be able to do that, man, you shouldn’t even be able to hear really,” Cooper said.
Cooper said he believes the problem will eventually fix itself. “First you gotta turn the program around and win some games. If we’re winning games, and people still don’t come out, then I’ll be upset.”
For now, the Mocs are relying on the expectations and chatter surrounding Coach Huesman and his plans for the 2009 football season. Huesman, a 1983 graduate of UTC, replaced head coach Rodney Allison Dec. 22, 2008.
The Mocs’ performance under Huesman’s leadership at this year’s opening game will likely affect the rest of the season, according the Cooper.
The Mocs will have their chance to make headlines at home Sept. 3 against Glenville State at 7 p.m.