Ron Kantowski:

UNLV’s building it; why aren’t they coming?

Oregon State vs UNLV Recap

Despite a fourth-quarter rally, UNLV fell short at home against Oregon State 23-21.

UNLV vs. Oregon State

Malo Taumua (left) and Preston Brooks of UNLV drop after Oregon State kicked in the go-ahead field goal Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium. Oregon St. won the game 23-21. Launch slideshow »

UNLV Fan Photos

The Rebel Room

Oregon State Postgame

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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech break down UNLV's last-second 23-21 defeat at the hands of Oregon State, which was similar to several games the Rebels let slip from their grasp just a year ago. The guys look at what went wrong, and whether you can expect Mike Sanford's club to still have its edge next Saturday when Hawaii comes to town ... and beyond.

Next game

  • Opponent: Hawaii
  • Date: Sept. 19, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
  • TV: The Mtn., Cox ch. 334
  • Radio: ESPN Radio 1100 AM

During his remarks after UNLV’s 23-21 loss to Oregon State on Saturday, Rebels coach Mike Sanford talked about the great crowd that turned out for the game.

From Corvallis, maybe.

Not from Las Vegas.

The announced attendance was 25,967.

The announced attendance for the season opener against Division I-AA Sacramento State was 22,195.

So there were roughly 4,000 additional spectators on hand at Sam Boyd Stadium for one of the marquee games of the season.

But when you factor in that roughly 8,000 were wearing orange and black, and that almost nobody was wearing green and gold (Sac State’s colors) the week before, it means there were about 4,000 fewer locals cheering for the Rebels against a nationally ranked team from a real conference.

That is not a good crowd.

That is a disgrace, especially in a city of this size.

Upon further review, Sanford labeled the difficult process of building a strong local following “an ongoing thing.” Then he did a James Earl Jones impression.

“I think as we build it, they will come. As we win, they will come.”

Yeah, and Ray Liotta and pals are going to come walking out of a corn field at halftime.

Sanford has seen it happen before. Not Ray Liotta walking out of a corn field. Cities that are indifferent to their football teams eventually rallying around them.

“Honestly, I think that there’s a lot of cities (like this). San Diego was like this with the Chargers. We played Green Bay, and I’d say two-thirds of the stadium was wearing Green Bay stuff. I just think there’s towns that are like this, and they’re waiting for us to give them something to come out for, and I really believe they’ll come.”

I, on the other hand, believe there is a better chance of Archie “Moonlight” Graham lining up 7’s on one of our airport slot machines.

This town, with few exceptions, is an 800-pound gorilla (with a toothache) when it comes to live sports. People keep falling back on the same reasons why relatively few support UNLV football: There are too many other things to do in Las Vegas. The team stinks. The stadium (or at least its remote location) stinks. The parking situation stinks.

Yes, there are a lot of entertainment options in Las Vegas. But the team doesn’t stink anymore. It is getting better. The stadium location hasn’t changed (although it’s not as remote as it was 30 years ago) and yes, the parking does stink, especially getting out of the lots, most of which are dirt.

But there were a lot of entertainment options in Las Vegas in 1981. Frank Sinatra was still around. Yet the Rebels drew 25,605 against New Mexico, 24,560 against West Texas State, 25,080 against Long Beach State, 27,883 against Utah, 23,090 against San Diego State and 22,574 against Air Force.

That team finished 6-6. There were no luxury suites at Sam Boyd Stadium in those days. Russell Road wasn’t as wide, or as well paved, as it is now.

The population of Clark County in 1981 was 489,129. Today, it’s right around 2 million.

In other words, the county has quadrupled in population since 1981, yet attendance at UNLV football games is virtually the same, if not a little worse.

As Sanford says, it’s an ongoing thing.

Drawing a crowd for Saturday’s game against Hawaii won’t be an issue, because if you think Oregon State brought a bunch of people, just wait until the Hawaii fans arrive and begin to co-mingle with the transplanted ones already here.

The last time these teams played here, in 2007, the game attracted a sellout crowd of 38,125. Book ’em Dano! But don’t forget to sell ’em an end zone seat for the Colorado State and San Diego State games.

After this week the Rebels will have four home games remaining, with one against BYU. That also will be a sellout. Utah, another of the Mountain West’s marquee teams, should also help the Rebels put a few rear ends in the seats. The game against Colorado State on Nov. 7 and the finale against San Diego State on Nov. 28 will present challenges.

So at the end of the year, UNLV could have a nice round number on the bottom line of the attendance chart, and it will be more misleading than the Texas Leaguer that falls in for a double in the next day’s box score.

I honestly thought last week’s game against Oregon State would sell out, and it didn’t come close.

While the Rebels appear to be closer to turning the corner, interest among their fans still seems to be wandering around aimlessly down the block.

As Mike Sanford says, it’s an ongoing thing.

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Previous Discussion: 8 comments so far…

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  1. Well done, as always, K.

    But I think you're missing the 800lb gorilla when it comes to reasons NOT to attend a UNLV football game against OSU:

    Why should I pay $50.00 for tickets, park my very nice car in the dirt, pay another $50.00 for pretzels and beer when I can instead sit at home on my comfortable sofa and watch the game on a big screen TV in HD?

    For FREE ...

    Televise the home games that haven't sold out and is it really a shocker that fans don't want to pay to see them?

    You gotta love any university that televises its half empty home games and can't televise its biggest 'rivalry' road game, don't you?

    Great irony of a program that most of our 2 million residents don't know exist because it doesn't play on ESPN having its live attendance hurt by one of the few games that actually is on TV!

    Throw in the circus atmosphere most home games have become, with drunk teens getting in for a can of corn and turning the place into a foul mouthed UFC fest, and it's a surprise ANYONE turns out.

    Winning will help obviously, and winning big cures all ails. But until that happens, our opponents will continue to outdraw our alums, most of whom have better options and exercise them.

  2. NYR:

    Yes, you know where I stand -- and I know where you stand -- on this crazy TV deal. In my perfect world, all the road games should be on TV, all the home games should be blacked out (unless they sell out). Your point, as usual, is right on.

    I guess if I were to play devil's advocate I would say that other schools also have lousy/similar TV deals and manage to draw better at home than UNLV.

    The Sac State game wasn't on TV and tickets were cheaper so at the end of the day, those factors may be more significant in the size of the crowd than the quality of the opponent.

    You wouldn't think that would be the case but ...

  3. REASON #1 - Hundreds of LV families (a few dozen that I personally know) hate attending UNLV games because they sell alcohol inside the stadium during games. Football aside, the crowds in Sam Boyd Stadium are often not family friendly. The OSU fans sitting behind me were in disbelief and completely criticizing, saying a few things like "why would they get these college kids all juiced up at a game?" and "there's not a single PAC-10 school that sells alcohol in their stadium" and "this is nuts."

    I'll mention, the reason I ended up sitting by some OSU fans in the first place was because my parents and I had to move seats during the 2nd quarter to get away from several intoxicated UNLV fans in the row before us. This was merely last Saturday, but over the years I have seen--regularly--similar incidents. Their behavior was offensive, and totally over-the-top. I have brought friends to games in the past to introduce them to UNLV football and have sometimes left embarrassed, and they would tell me "I can't bring my kids here."

    Plain and simple, the atmosphere very much struggles at Sam Boyd because it's nothing like the spirit of college football other stadiums enjoy, who do not self-impose the extra nonsense specifically resulting from the free flow of beer and alcohol across an entire crowd during games. I know because I've attended many other stadiums.

    I love UNLV football and have been attending almost every game since Coach Jim Strong was here. Needless to say I'm a season ticket holder. But, for example, tomorrow I'm reluctantly staying home (not because I'm not a fan and don't want to see it) but ONLY because there will be at least 30 fist-fights in the bleachers. It's very, very unappealing. If UNLV really wants to build it, then build it.

    There's a reason other college venues won't and don't do this... and more families and actual "football fans" can come watch the games. For those who are just all about getting drunk and binging during games and then for fun acting like jackasses in the crowd, they are NOT genuine football fans and actually need to be weeded out of the stands. Or, they can attend remotely more sober. Once this happens both the atmosphere and overall event of UNLV football will appeal to families and they will enjoy themselves... And with a few wins (which the Rebels WILL get this season) "they" will start coming.

  4. Agree 100% about serving alcohol.

    And I really enjoy having a beer at the games (in the T&M too).

    But it turns that place into a freaking cage match.

    My wife is from Oahu. People in her family went to UH and we would love for the whole family (Rebels and Rainbows)to be able to go to the game this weekend enjoy it with our kids.

    But having attended UH games while I was at UNLV, I'd have to be CRAZY to bring my family there.

    They need an army of uniformed police to turn that place around and make it a safe situation for families.

    Also. PAVE THE DIRT LOT! Charge me $20-$30 for parking to pay for it. I don't care. I have to spend more than that to get my truck washed after going there anyway.

    Even if there's no wind, drunk kids peel out in the dirt and the whole place turns into a sand storm.

    So much is wrong out there. If the new AD can fix some of it, attendance will improve.

  5. Wait a minute..... I have season tickets and sit on the fifty yard line, where do these whiners sit, in the men's room.

    I have been a season ticket holder since 1984 and have seen probably five altercations. At last weeks game there were ten guys from Oregon sitting behind me, yes they were drinking, but they were never obnoxious or willing to fight anybody.

    Blaming drinking for a low turn-out is like blaming High School for your acne. Dumb.

    If drinking causes low turn-outs how do you explain the Wisconsin sell-outs. Sobriety is the orphan that night.

  6. If you've been attending UNLV games since 84 and have only seen five altercations then please, at Saturday's game pay closer attention because I assure you you will see a minimum of five during Hawaii's visit.

    The OSU fans around me last game were not the problem.

  7. Doc, pay attention to what?? I am watching the game and enjoying football. I could care less what some knucklehead in the student area does.

    Besides, loosen up, what's next, are you going to advocate banning hotdogs because they give you indigestion and cotton candy because it sticks to everything??

  8. Just an opinion from a mid 30 yr old transplanted NYer, living here for 3+ years.Desperate for live sports & with many UNLV alumni friends I have become a huge Rebelfan. We go to every basketball game&have a group that goes out to every home football game. Granted, the tailgate in the past has almost always outshined the football game but we're always inside for at least part of the game. This year I have been inside for all 3 games. We were pleasantly surprised at the turnout for the first game. The crowd for the Oregon state game however, was sad &embarrassing- not even the amount of people- but the ones who were there were quiet & not rallying around their team. It was a close game not a huge blowout that takes the crowd out & we had to work HARD to get the crowd into it. We are not "sit in your seat hands folded on your lap" kind of fans. CHEER! Support your team! Oregon State was louder &made their presence known. It was more embarrassing than the loss (to me).

    Fast forward to last night against Hawaii.I had been warned of the rivalry but it was my first UNLV/Hawaii game. Easily the best football game I've been to here. The UNLV fans were GREAT! they were loud & supportive. I will also say to whomever above mentioned the rowdy teenage fans...? Maybe in the end zone but where we are midfield all I see are families& fans our age (we range late twenties to 4o ish). Yea there are jerks everywhere but overall I haven't seen anything awful. I can tell you the Hawaii fans around us yesterday were the most obnoxious, classless group of fans I have met. College kids, adults, male, female- it didn't matter. We are all for a little razzing, Im a NY-er & survived many a Yankee/Boston game, but when you taunt & shout obscenities & threaten the 12 year olds a few rows in front of us...over the line. Now we don't know them and they held their own but it was ridiculous. They didn't shut up all game- we can handle it but it really got to the point where you wondered who raised these kids (and adults). I can say this, the UNLV fans around us certainly outshined the visiting fans.

    As far as getting crowds in--I do know at $25 for the cheapest seats last night after the game had started is ludicrous. Basketball offers $5/10 endzone specials & so should football. For a family to pay $100-$150 for tickets plus more than half that in food & drink (forget the beer)- is hard- especially in these times. And as a single woman trying to make ends meet I cant afford $50/game with food/drink every week. Especially when the tailgating is so good. That's the other thing& we are guilty of this at times. When the team is bad- you're gonna stay in the parking lot, tailgate and listen to the game rather than buying a last minute $25-35 ticket.But wake up guys. the team is 2-1. Are we the best team in college football? no of course not. but we have life and that was a FUN game last night. Come out & support your community and your Rebels!! Thanks for listening.