Jeff Eisenberg

Why's this gym empty? The home team urged fans to stay home

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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At a time when many colleges are hoping to attract larger crowds by handing out free tickets, creating zany marketing videos or selling unusual items at concession stands, one Alabama school tried a different approach.

Before Thursday night's matchup with Davidson, Samford encouraged fans not to show up.

Due to unsafe road conditions caused by ice and sleet in the Birmingham area Thursday, Samford issued a press release calling the game a "closed-door event" and urging fans to stay home. Ticketholders were not turned away at the door, but the vast majority heeded the athletic department's warning.

An estimated 200 fans attended Samford's 62-49 loss, a far cry from the 5,000 who showed up when Davidson last visited the Bulldogs two years ago during the Stephen Curry era. It was so quiet at the Pete Hanna Center that every sneaker squeak was audible on TV, as were every coach's shout or every catcall from the crowd.

"It was definitely different from the last time we were here when they had a whiteout and the place was jam-packed since we had Steph on our team," Davidson guard Brendan McKillop said by phone.

"I think it actually benefited us tonight. The way Samford runs its offense, you have to be disciplined defensively and communicate a lot. It allowed us to communicate better because we were able to hear each other the entire game. That benefited us in the long run."

The hearty few who braved the bad weather to see a pair of below-.500 Southern Conference teams might have been better off staying home. Davidson led by double figures from midway through the first half on, coasting to its third straight victory.

McKillop said roads were icy and slick, but he admitted that urging fans to stay home might have been a little overboard.

"I think it might have been more the South being very cautious," he said. "If this was the Northeast, it would have been just another night. They're definitely not used to this type of weather here."

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