The Towson football team's first postseason victory since 1984 may have been a significant achievement for the players and the coaches, but it clearly did not resonate with many fans.
An announced 4,671 watched the No. 7-seeded Tigers secure a 48-28 victory over visiting Fordham in the second round of the at NCAA Football Championship Subdivision tournament Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Towson set a school record for wins in a single season with 11 and earned its first FCS triumph since joining this level of college football for the 1987 season. But the turnout was the program's lowest at home since Oct. 31, 2009, when only 4,396 fans saw Towson get routed, 42-14, by Richmond. When the team dropped a 40-38 decision to Lehigh in a NCAA FCS tournament game on Dec. 3, 2011, 11,196 attended at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Saturday’s attendance was also the smallest crowd among the eight playoff games that took place this past weekend. At North Dakota State’s 38-7 pasting of Furman, 18,455 fans turned out. Eastern Illinois – the Tigers’ next opponent in the quarterfinal round – had just 4,825 fans.
The temperature at kickoff was 39 degrees and a slight wind at 9 mph made it feel somewhat colder, but there was no rain. The low turnout was noted by Tigers coach Rob Ambrose.
"Was I surprised? No, I don't think I was surprised," he said Monday morning during a conference call arranged by the Colonial Athletic Association. "I was a little disappointed. I understand that it's December and it's cold, but I would've liked to have seen more people get out of the parking lot and actually get into the stands to see the amazing things that happened. But things that we can't control, we just keep doing what we do and keep moving forward."
Towson senior left tackle Eric Pike agreed with his coach, but pointed out that the players had more pressing issues to tackle – say, taking one more step to a national championship.
"It was a little bit of a surprise, but on the other hand, it's more so about the guys on the field," he said. "Our focus wasn't relying too heavily on the attendance."