In Terrapin13's fanpost about Comcast being in the top ten hardest arenas to play, a discussion broke out in the comments section regarding the poor attendance record at Comcast last season. This discussion reminded me of some thoughts I had on the subject, and I figured I might bore you with them.
It's undeniable that student attendance and enthusiasm was way down last year. However, I don't buy any of the traditional explanations as to why this occurred. The most common (and aggravating) of which is the idea that current Maryland fans just aren't good fans. This is incorrect for obvious reasons. Maryland students have always cared dearly for their team, and until this year, showed up in fairly high numbers even during down years. That didn't change all of a sudden after Greivis' team's ACC championship. Other's have called Maryland fans fair-weather fans. While there is certainly a portion of the fanbase (any fanbase, really) where this is true, attendance and enthusiasm was already low before it became clear Maryland wasn't going to make the NCAA tourney. Other reasons range from blaming the poor economy, competition with other D.C. markets, etc. While these probably contribute to the issue, they don't explain the sudden onset of student apathy.
So what's my explanation? First, you need to start with the "riot" following the Duke game in March of 2010. 27 students were arrested, and several innocent students were beaten by police. The Maryland administration immediately took the PG county police department's side, and threatened students involved with expulsions. Turned out, with the exception of a few students, the vast majority of those accused were innocent. No apology from UMD administration was given to the student-victims of the "riot" (at least not one that I was satisfied with), nor did the UMD administration push particularly hard to hold the policemen who assaulted students accountable (as far as I know, no convictions have been made as of yet).
In the following year, the UMD administration took efforts to rehabilitate Maryland's image following the riots. Foul language at the games and general poor sportsmanship by the fans was strongly discouraged. Many times during the year, I read guest Diamondback articles about what terrible fans our student body is made up of. We were called vulgar, rude, and worst of all, unoriginal.
Then, at the 2011 Duke game scandal, the UMD administration created "Beat Duke Week", an effort to create excitement about the Duke game with an emphasis on good fan behavior. T-shirts were given out, and events were planned by the school. While only marginally successful, the idea was great, and I hope the school continues it in coming years. Unfortunately, the school made the mistake of giving 100 (I think) of the best seats in Comcast to SGA members to do as they wanted. Instead of giving the tickets to fans who pledged to behave at the game like they were supposed to, the SGA gave the tickets to themselves and friends.
What do all of these events add up to? An extremely alienated student fanbase. Students got tired of being mistreated and portrayed as the villain, so many just stopped coming.
Read these articles from the past school year:
How hard do you feel like cheering now?
P.S. Sorry for rambling, this went way longer than I intended