SHARE

williams brice empty seats

Empty seats … it’s “the Garnet Way.”

The 2009 season is poised to set a new low in attendance for the University of South Carolina football program during the Steve Spurrier era – indeed, in more than a decade of Gamecock football.  And that’s even if huge crowds attend USC’s final two home games against No. 1 Florida and arch-rival Clemson, which is no guarantee.

Through the first five home games of the 2009 season, USC is averaging only 73,542 fans per game – compared to an average of 80,529 per game a year ago.  That means South Carolina would need to draw at least 82,000 fans for the Florida and Clemson games to avoid setting a new home attendance low for the Spurrier era.

Two years ago, 82,410 attended Clemson’s 23-21 win over South Carolina, while 81,215 attended Florida’s 51-31 victory over the Gamecocks.  Meeting those attendance numbers could prove difficult this year, though.

For the first time since 2001, South Carolina failed to sell out Williams-Brice Stadium this year – which University officials blame on a struggling economy and a new SEC TV package that put more games on television.

Here at FITS, we blame the consistently mediocre product that the University puts on the football field – and the addition of a new seat license fee to USC’s already exorbitant ticket prices.

In 2004 – former head coach Lou Holtz’s final year at USC – South Carolina drew 482,200 fans to six home games, or 80,366 fans per game.  It was the fifth consecutive year that USC averaged over 80,000 fans a game – a feat it has accomplished just once (2008) under Spurrier.

The Holtz era also saw the top five crowds in Williams-Brice Stadium history, 85,000 (Clemson, 2001), 84,900 (Florida, 2001), 84,277 (Georgia 2002), 84,200 (Tennessee, 2000) and 83,987 (Clemson, 2003).

Since then, the fan support has gone downhill.

Here’s a look at the last decade of Gamecock football attendance …

Year (Record) – # Home Games – Head Coach – Total Attendance (Per Game) – Attendance Ranking

2009 (6-3) – 7 – Steve Spurrier – 367,709 (73,542) #??
2008 (7-6) – 7 – Steve Spurrier – 563,703 (80,529) – #17
2007 (6-6) – 7 – Steve Spurrier – 549,269 (78,467) #19
2006 (8-5) – 7 – Steve Spurrier – 529,412 (75,630) #19
2005 (7-5) – 7 – Steve Spurrier – 559,071 (79,867) #16
2004 (6-5) – 6 – Lou Holtz – 482,200 (80,366) NA
2003 (5-7) – 8 – Lou Holtz – 646,754 (80,844) #13
2002 (5-7) – 6 – Lou Holtz – 492,828 (82,138) #10
2001 (9-3) – 7 – Lou Holtz – 578,295 (82,614) #11
2000 (8-4) – 6 – Lou Holtz – 491,425 (81,904) #11
1999 (0-11) – 6 – Lou Holtz – 469,635 (78,273) #14
1998 (1-10) – 6 – Brad Scott – 448,463 (74,744) #15

When Spurrier arrived on campus five years ago, USC’s athletics department had big dreams – both on the football field and with respect to the facilities surrounding it.

USC officials were looking to add an upper deck to the north end zone, which would have boosted Williams-Brice Stadium’s capacity by another 13,500 seats.  That would have raised the stadium’s capacity to 96,000, and made it possible to squeeze as many as 100,000 inside for big games.

That goal now seems like a pipe dream, particularly after only 68,278 fans showed up for an SEC match-up against Kentucky earlier this season.  That was the smallest crowd to watch a USC game in over a decade.

Also remember that these are “announced” crowds, not necessarily the number of “butts in seats.”

Of course the lack of demand for a stadium expansion hasn’t stopped USC from pouring millions into Williams-Brice.

USC spent $4 million prior to this season to upgrade the locker room and “recruiting area” beneath the West stands, which includes the addition of a giant Gamecock that players rub for luck before taking the field.  Prior to the 2008 season, the stadium’s training room also received a multimillion-dollar makeover.