Three days ago, The Anniston Star, a newspaper in Eastern Alabama, reported Alabama head football coach Nick Saban’s displeasure with ‘Bama football fans for leaving games early during Crimson Tide blowout victories at home.
“We have a lot of recruits there. We like to see a full stadium,” Saban said. “We have a beautiful stadium and a very nice place, one of the nicest venues in all of college football. I think we should all show our appreciation for it by staying there and showing our appreciation to the team for the whole game.”
As of today, it seems the university’s administration agree with him.
According to ESPN.com, the University of Alabama suspended block seating privileges of twenty student organizations in the wake of Coach Saban’s critical comments. Student block seating in the 101,821-seat Bryant-Denny Stadium is traditionally reserved for the school’s fraternities and sororities, though as of today’s home game versus Tennessee, the seats will now be open to all students. According to The Birmingham News, the university considers excessive tardiness or early departure from the stadium “unacceptable behavior” when concerning block seating. If an offense is committed a second time, the organization may be suspended for the rest of the season, and banned altogether if a violation happens a third time.
In the state of Alabama, when Nick Saban speaks, people listen. Here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, John Calipari’s words have a similar effect. ‘Cats fans are quick to compare the Saban era of Alabama football to the Calipari era of Kentucky basketball, and in this instance, the resemblance couldn’t be clearer. While Rupp Arena’s eRUPPtion Zone and reserved seating student sections may stay loud and loyal for the entire 40 minutes, the same cannot always be said for Kentucky basketball’s real source of income, the boosters and older crowd in the arena’s lower level. 23,500 fans pack the house for every single home game– though the same number is not consistently left when the game is over.
Fans are quick to point out the fact that Lexington is one of the worst cities for traffic on a day-to-day basis, let alone during game days. By leaving early when the game is already out of reach, the drive home is much more manageable. Others will argue that as a fan, convenience is a necessary sacrifice to cheer on the beloved Wildcats. As Saban puts it, “…fans are a part of the team. Everybody else should have the same sort of commitment.”
The ethics of early fan departure are still up in the air when concerning Kentucky basketball, as (to the best of my knowledge) the University of Kentucky has no policy regulating such activity. When mid-majors UNC-Asheville, Northern Kentucky, UT Arlington, Cleveland State, and Eastern Michigan visit Rupp Arena this November, or even when SEC bottom-dweller Mississippi State rolls into town in January, how many fans will still be in attendance in the game’s final two minutes? Moreover, does it really hurt recruiting if they are not? With this group of ‘Cats, 2013-14 is very likely to see its share of 20-30-point blowouts. Should the Big Blue Nation remain standing strong in attendance until the contest’s final buzzer, or is it acceptable to leave when the game is all but decided?
Whatever the answer, you can guarantee that if John Calipari ever decides to voice his opinion (whatever it may be), we won’t be asking this question anymore.