Lions’ crowd numbers shrink

Coming off a SWAC championship season, Arkansas-Pine Bluff athletic director Lonza Hardy anticipated large attendance numbers for home football games this season.

So far, attendance hasn’t even reached half of Golden Lion Stadium’s seating capacity of 14,500.

UAPB’s home attendance is sliding from last year’s average of 8,986 per game. The crowds have not reached capacity level since the 2012 homecoming game against Mississippi Valley State.

Three home games have been played since that Oct. 27 contest, including two in the past two weeks. UAPB surprisingly drew only 3,088 for its Nov. 17 game against Prairie View A&M (a 42-41 UAPB win), the first at Golden Lion Stadium since the team clinched the SWAC Western Division championship.

UAPB (0-4, 0-2 SWAC) has averaged 5,964 for the two home games this season, a 40-39 loss to Alabama State on Sept. 14 and a 21-16 defeat to Alcorn State this past Saturday. The Alabama State game, which featured the preseason division championship favorites in the SWAC (UAPB in the West and Alabama State in the East), drew the bigger crowd with 6,213, while UAPB and Alcorn State played before 5,714.

The drop has slid UAPB from 39th at the end of last season to its current 67th out of 113 teams in NCAA Football Championship Subdivision average home attendance rankings. UAPB ranks seventh in the 10-team SWAC, well shy of Texas Southern’s 18,361 through one game.

Hardy said he was disappointed in the latest count.

“Someone told me early on when I first got here that it’s important for UAPB to have their home games early in the season because if we play Bowl Subdivision teams early on and we don’t win, fans tend to not show up for the following home games,” said Hardy, who began his third year as athletic director this month.

UAPB began the season with a 62-11 loss at FBS member Arkansas State and followed with a 58-14 loss at McNeese State, which is currently ranked ninth in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 poll. In attendance, McNeese ranks 25th nationally with an 11,406 average.

Hardy said the potential for smaller crowds after the two blowout losses weren’t on his mind when the schedule was released.

“We probably will continue to schedule games against FBS teams because those games generate much-needed revenue regardless of who we’re playing,” Hardy said. The Arkansas State game was UAPB’s first against FBS talent since visiting Texas-El Paso in 2010.

No. 13 Central Arkansas (2-2), which like McNeese (4-0) competes in the Southland Conference, drew 10,455 in its only home game of 2012 so far, and that was against Division II Incarnate Word (Texas). That ranks the Bears 31st nationally, but UCA trailed UAPB last year with 8,550 (51st).

UAPB started the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Delta Classic 4 Literacy game against Langston (Okla.) in Little Rock, drawing five-figure crowds at War Memorial Stadium. But those games are counted as neutral-site contests in NCAA attendance statistics.

Hardy is hoping that promotions for upcoming home games will draw larger crowds. For the Oct. 12 “Military Appreciation Day” game against Texas Southern, all military personnel in uniform will be admitted free. For the Nov. 9 “Take a Kid to the Game” contest against Grambling State, kids 12 and under will be admitted free with a purchasing adult. The Nov. 9 game also will be Senior Day.

This year’s UAPB homecoming game is Oct. 19 against Southern. Homecoming games for the Golden Lions generally draw close to, if not more than, capacity crowds.

SWAC home attendance in 2013

Listed are the 10 home attendance averages for each SWAC team this season, with Football Championship Subdivision national ranking, team and overall record, average and home games played so far:

6. Texas Southern (0-3) 18,361 (1 game)

8. Jackson State (2-2) 17,902 (2)

11. Alabama State (2-2) 16,227 (2)

16. Southern (2-2) 14,586 (1)

20. Alabama A&M (1-3) 13,267 (1)

50. Grambling State (0-4) 7,648 (1)

67. UAPB (0-4) 5,964 (2)

86. Prairie View A&M (2-2) 4,712 (1)

103. Miss. Valley State (0-4) 3,063 (2)

105. Alcorn State (3-1) 2,833 (2)

— Source: NCAA