Brian Murphy: Boise State's late start leads to early exodus

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comSeptember 29, 2013 

Boise State running back Jay Ajayi refused to be tackled, carrying several Southern Miss defenders with him on a 4-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.

The rout was on.

So, too, was the rush of fans out of Bronco Stadium.

Ajayi’s touchdown gave the Broncos a 30-7 lead, and with the hour approaching 10 p.m., many fans decided that was enough.

“Normally we’d be sticking around, but it is a little late for the young ones,” said Eric Peterson of Nampa, who headed to his car at halftime along with his wife Lisa and two sons, ages 15 and 8. “The time is a bit of an issue for us.”

The ESPN-dictated kickoff was at 8:21 p.m., meaning the final snap of the blowout would not come until after 11:30 p.m.

The Petersons were not alone.

Thousands of the 35,356 fans who attended the game streamed out of Bronco Stadium at halftime — and before.

Students, including juniors Lauren Drury and Kaitlin Linderman, were headed to the nearby bars for the second half. They’d sat through a wet and cold first half — largely without the use of their cellphones on jammed networks.

“You can’t do anything. That was lame. What the hell, why can’t we use our phones?” Drury said.

Peterson said he was simply trying to find out-of-town scores on his cellphone — and couldn’t. Josh Tyree, who headed to a tailgate party at halftime, said he switched providers in the off-season, but has had little success with either inside Bronco Stadium.

Tyree was at a tailgate with more than three dozen people. There was a flat-screen TV, a tent to hide from the rain and plenty of beer for everyone, not just those sitting in the high-priced suites and club seats of the Stueckle Sky Center.

“They need to do like they do up in Seattle and Eugene and everywhere else. They need to sell alcohol,” said Duane Lafave of Boise.

Tyree and Lafave estimated that as few as 20 percent of the people at their tailgate would return to the game. If the sparsely populated stands in the second half were any indication, they may have overestimated the number of returners. At least they showed up.

Boise State discounted tickets in the north end zone and upper deck corners for the Southern Miss game (and others) to help fill the stands. On Friday, they released 500 unused student tickets for sale.

“I don’t think Boise State is isolated in this. It’s something college football as a whole needs to take a look at, the fan experience,” Boise State Athletic Director Mark Coyle said.

The SEC — yes, the country’s best conference in the most football crazed portion of the country — hired a New York market-research firm to study fan behavior and figure out why more are opting to remain at home, according to the Wall Street Journal. Georgia, a top-10 team, has struggled with student attendance at some less-than-marquee games.

The fan experience includes much more than what happens inside the stadium, where Boise State has tried to make improvements with a new video board and audio system. It also includes paying to park, the time spent in traffic coming to and leaving the game, the need to pack and wear sweatshirts and raingear.

It’s too much for many fans, who have invested heavily in big-screen televisions and high-dollar cable or satellite packages and enjoy the comforts of home: replays on demand, the choice of switching between games, no lines for the bathroom, beer, a working cell, no obnoxious seat neighbors and the ease of turning off the game when you get sleepy, a notable feature on Saturday.

College football has ceded everything to television — its kickoff times, its preseason matchups and its conference affiliations.

Now TV is stealing its customers.

That game, too, is becoming a blowout.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @MurphsTurph

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service