Will Citadel fans turn out for Bulldogs’ game at Charleston Southern?

By Jeff Hartsell: postandcourier.com
Sep 16 2014 4:48 pm

New Citadel athletic director Jim Senter made a scouting trip to Charleston Southern this week, checking out the venue for the Bulldogs’ football game at CSU on Saturday. “Big game against the Buccaneers. Need U #GOTOTHEGAME,” Senter posted on his Twitter account after his drive up I-26.

As The Citadel prepares for its first game at Lowcountry rival Charleston Southern on Saturday, there is some question as to exactly how enthusiastic Bulldog fans are about making the trip to CSU Stadium, located in North Charleston off U.S. Highway 78 near Interstate 26. The Citadel ticket office sold just 170 of the 530 tickets it received from CSU for consignment, returning 360 to Charleston Southern. The Bulldogs also received 250 complimentary tickets for the 6 p.m. game.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I’m not sure of why that is,'” Senter said of the returned tickets. “I’m not sure if people were not aware we had tickets to be purchased, or if people think it’s sold out, or if people think Charleston Southern’s stadium is too small to accommodate Citadel fans. But I want people to know we are taking this game very seriously. It’s a big game for our team, and Charleston Southern is a good opponent and we need to take this seriously. My goal is to get as many fans there as we can, to support our team and to play the very best game we can play.”

The previous seven meetings with CSU (the Bulldogs are 5-2 against the Buccaneers) have been played at The Citadel’s 21,000-seat Johnson Hagood Stadium, drawing an average attendance of 13,201 fans, including 12,196 for the Buccaneers’ 32-29 win over The Citadel last season. CSU Stadium has a capacity of 4,000 seats, and Charleston Southern announced last week that it would add about 700 seats to the visitors’ side of the stadium, expanding that side to 1,628 seats and the total capacity to 4,700. CSU Stadium can also accommodate standing-room only crowds, which explains last year’s record of 6,135 fans for a game against Coastal Carolina.

CSU athletic director Hank Small said Tuesday that there is not a “sell-out” limit on the number of tickets available for Saturday’s game. “We had very large crowds last year for our Charlotte and Coastal games and did not ‘sell out’ due to the fact that we will continue to sell general admission tickets,” Small said in an e-mail. “We have very large standing room areas that will accommodate general admission. People need to plan to arrive early to be assured of a general admission seat or to purchase a reserved seat.”
The game at Charleston Southern was scheduled by former Citadel athletic director Larry Leckonby after Southern Conference realignment left The Citadel with only seven league games in 2014 instead of eight. That put the Bulldogs at risk of playing only 11 games in a season in which they could schedule 12.

Citadel alumnus Paul Tamburrino, a member of the Citadel Football Association and a director on the alumni association’s board, said some Citadel fans wondered why the game was scheduled at CSU. “I think there was some concern about why our decision-makers would send us to a stadium with 4,000 seats,” Tamburrino said. “And I think there was some apathy about the game at the beginning of the year. “But now Citadel fans are starting to get excited about our coaching staff, and the results of our last game (a 37-12 loss at No. 1 Florida State). So there has been a big influx this week of people buying tickets. I had 20 tickets, and they went just like that. We want Citadel fans to wear light blue, to show that we can fill their stands. “We’re itching for some football, and we haven’t had a home game since the (Aug. 30) season opener. I think we’ll have a good crowd, and the people that go will be true fans. It will be a boisterous crowd.”

Whatever the fans’ attitude, there’s no question Citadel coach Mike Houston and his players are taking CSU quite seriously. “At the end of the day, I have very little control of our fan base as far as them embracing us playing up there,” Houston said. “For us, our players are just as excited about this game as about playing any other road game. I think it will be a very, very good environment with the two teams in the Charleston area going head-to-head.”


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