On Monday, the Rebels opened practice to the public, and about 75 people showed up (I would have been among them but got stuck trying to fix a broken Dell Inspiron laptop for a faculty member). One of the “team managers“—a nebulous-sounding title that means nothing to me—wasn’t too pleased about the low turnout:
Team manager Russell Cook was glad that the coaches and staff allowed fans to come watch an open practice. He wasn’t pleased with the turnout.
“I think with a school population of approximately 15,000 students, you think that a few more than 50 or 60 could show up,” Cook said. “A lot of them probably didn’t want to support the team or attend after the loss last week. I think that’s a poor show of support. There are still 10 games left in the season and we still have a great team.
“They come out here every day, hell or high water, and work hard to get better. For people to just give up because of one loss is not the right thing to do.”
Now, maybe there are a few other explanations as to why so few people showed up. For one thing, the only announcement I saw was buried in the back of the Daily Mississippian, and this was a one-off event. And, in general, the football coaches don’t seem to be particularly interested in having students (or anyone else, for that matter) around to watch practice, as is evidenced by the giant opaque screen they put around the practice fields. (Never mind that I can see everything they’re doing from my office window.)
If the Rebel coaches want students to be interested in coming to practice and supporting the team, they should have a regularly-scheduled, free “open practice” session at the stadium, open up the concessions, and maybe even let manageable groups come down to the sidelines or end zone so they can take a look at that fancy new artificial turf we have. They could learn something here from the basketball program, which goes to much greater lengths to drum up fan support.
Sure, fans have to do their part—like showing up for the out-of-conference slate, including this Saturday’s home opener against Louisiana-Monroe. But a more welcoming attitude on the part of the team would be a big help as well.