Fire up any Jedd Fisch conference following a home game, or preceding one, and you are pretty much guaranteed to hear him talk about the fans.
With the former it’s usually something about being thankful for them sticking around and being there for his team, and with the latter it’s some sort of plea to get them to show up.
It’s no secret that Arizona’s attendance has been a bit lackluster. On-field struggles, unfavorable start times, less-than-thrilling opponents and general apathy towards the football program are to blame. Arizona Stadium holds a bit less than 51,000 people, but other than when Washington came to town it has not really been close to full this season.
But as the program continues its ascension on the field, and moves into the Big 12, it is hoped that belief in the Cats will translate into consistently having more butts in the seats, so to speak. This is especially important if Arizona is to try and compete at the highest of levels. Everything from revenue to game-day atmosphere will help in not only maintaining the progress, but building upon it.
That Arizona’s attendance is not where Fisch or others want it to be, or where it could be, is understandable. Just as the Wildcats have progressed and grown on the field so too have the fans off it.
The players had to believe they could win before they began to win. Fans need to see them win before they believe they can win. In a world where money is a bit tight and games are usually available on TV the decision to spend to go to the game is not always an easy or practical one.
More so, Wildcats fans have watched a lot of bad football and are likely conditioned to fear the worst while tepidly hoping for the best.
This season, of course, has featured a lot of the latter. Arizona has amassed a 7-3 record that includes three victories over ranked teams. The Cats are 4-1 at home and are currently No. 17 in the College Football Playoff Rankings, 19th in the AP Poll and 22nd in the Coaches Poll.
Arizona has played an exciting, enjoyable brand of football led by likeable players and coaches who are actually pretty easy to root for. Although it may have taken some time to really buy into what this year’s team was capable of, it’s been obvious from the beginning that hey were much improved over recent versions and could reach heights not seen in the Old Pueblo for far too long.
Fan support has certainly risen, and the football team’s success has in many ways overshadowed the start of basketball season. At the very least people are still talking about football even as men’s hoops has risen to No. 3 in the nation and is once again a favorite to cut down the nets.
The good news is fan support can be shown in more ways than just attendance. Fans can buy and wear merchandise. They can donate to NIL operations, such as the Desert Takeover. They can spread the gospel of Arizona and make sure they watch games on TV and ensure their friends and family all know of how well the team is doing.
Trust me, there’s nothing people love more than to randomly hear about T-Mac’s latest great catch, Noah Fifita’s ascension to being QB1 or of how the defense has turned into one of the strongest in the Pac-12. People mid-conversation would appreciate you interrupting and explaining how the Cats have reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 2017 and knocked off multiple ranked teams in the process.
Or maybe they wouldn’t. But still, the point is there are multiple ways to be a fan. Spending money on tickets is just a small part of it, albeit the most noticeable. A full Arizona Stadium looks good on TV and creates a terrific atmosphere for all there, including fans, players and recruits.
It’s what Fisch should want and what this team, through its performance, has proven deserving of. Hopefully Saturday’s home finale against Utah is sold out, and ideally it, like this year’s team, is a sign that things really have turned around.
Just like the program itself, Arizona’s fans have also needed to go through a bit of a rebuild. It was always going to lag behind the team’s, but just because it’s slow to happen does not mean it won’t.