September 28, 2010
New coaches are usually expected to energize the fan base with a renewed sense of optimism and vigor. In Jimbo Fisher's case, it was probably never going to work that way at Florida State: 'Nole partisans had been conditioned for the coming of the Fisher era since he was named coach-in-waiting under Bobby Bowden in 2007, largely considered him the "real" coach behind the scenes for at least the last two years and subsequently directed plenty of blame his way for FSU's ongoing mediocrity.
Not surprisingly, his first two games as head coach in Doak Campbell Stadium (lopsided wins over Samford and BYU) both drew announced crowds of a little less than 69,000, barely topping the official numbers for Bowden's last two home games in '09 – the smallest crowds at Doak since it expanded beyond 70,000 in 1992.
That is, the smallest before Saturday's win over Wake Forest, which officially drew 61,647, and in reality came in several thousand below that. The Orlando Sentinel's Andrew Carter put that number into some sobering perspective:
So the attendance for the Wake Forest game was Florida State's least-attended game in 18 years. That's bad enough. But it gets worse. On Saturday for the game against the Demon Deacons, the announced crowd of 61,647 filled Doak Campbell to just 74.9 percent of its "official" capacity of 82,300. To find a larger percentage of empty seats for a Florida State home game you have to go back to 1976. The final home game of that season – Bobby Bowden’s first at Florida State – just 16,148 showed up to see the Seminoles beat Virginia Tech at Doak Campbell, where the capacity was then 40,500. That's the last time there has been a higher percentage of empty seats at Doak. That's also the last time there have been more empty seats, period, for a Florida State home game.
One more thing: Through the first three home games, Florida State has filled Doak Campbell to about 80 percent of its capacity. That's also the lowest percentage since '76, when an average crowd of 29,135 filled Doak to about 72 percent of its capacity.
Yeah, so much for the honeymoon: By the end of the BYU game, the scene felt like a wake with a wildly inappropriate marching band. At least the 'Noles know they can count on the Fisher loyalists at Tomahawk Nation for a few more years, at least. Everyone else they're going to have to win back the old-fashioned way, by showing them that things have really changed this time, and maybe finally coming through with that ACC championship they've had their eye on for years for Christmas.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.