Wyoming is 7-3 (4-1), bowl eligible, and led by the conference's top freshman Brett Smith to become one of the nation's most improved teams. Pokes fans screamed and moaned wanting a winning team, and now the Cowboy posse has put one together. Yet...
When TCU rolled into Laramie thee weeks ago to play Wyoming in possibly the Cowboys' most important conference game of 2011, barely 17,000 fans showed up. Snow was in the forecast but it didn't happen. Wyoming wrestled around with the Frogs tying 17-17 at halftime and taking a 20-17 third quarter lead. The Pokes lost 20-31 after some questionable aggression on our quarterback but that's beside the point.
On senior day last week against New Mexico (who they beat), the game for which Wyoming could become bowl eligible, 14,000 fans showed up... not to mention that is total attendance; many people left at half time. That is the lowest attendance of a game at the War in the entire decade; in fact, I could not find an attendance below 15,000 in any number of years. What makes this so pathetic is it falls short of the required 15,000 average attendance mandated by the NCAA-Division 1-A. Fortunately Wyoming is still slightly above 20,000 for the yearly average, but 14,000 for the last game? Was it the cold front?
Not only was this pathetic turnout a blow to the seniors who have overcome previously adverse seasons (save the 2009 6-6- record and NM Bowl victory) to bring the state a winning team, it was a blow to the entire university. War Memorial Stadium is not that big, but it can be one intimidating place if more than half the seats are filled. Not being able to fill half the seats of a 30,000 capacity venue just makes one think UW is a cupcake institution since most D1-FCS (formerly AA) schools have better turnouts.
Now I know there are some quality fans out there and the Cowboys have the backing of most of the state. But I think it's shameful that the only times the War can be filled to capacity are when big shot teams like Texas or Nebraska come to Laramie. Do fans really have so little faith in their team that they only think they're worth watching when a team with a name comes in? Seats in the War need to be filled...additionally, crowds in the AA for basketball have been very skeletal.. but I'll save that for another day.
I know there are legitimate reasons for people not to come to games. Wyoming is a huge state with few people. But weather was not the factor people thought it would be this year. Laramie and the UW student population combined is about 45,000; Cheyenne with 60,000 is a quick hop on I-80 to the east, Casper with 53,000 is less than three hours to the northwest; much of Wyoming's population is within reasonable driving distance of Laramie. When it's in the heat of conference play and our stadium looks like a high school field, there is no excuse.