A supportive environment for football starts with small habits

This past Thursday I flew to Salt Lake City to watch TCU football play the University of Utah. In addition to about 40 TCU fans on the plane was a representative from the FedEx Orange Bowl. He was among representatives from five other bowls attending the game.

Not surprisingly, once Frog fans found out who he was, they asked him all kinds of questions. But one important question the representative asked a TCU fan was how many fans TCU could send to a bowl game. The TCU fan said at least 30,000 fans, and while I'm not sure whether that would happen, it brings up a much more important, broader question. What level of support does the TCU community have for football?

One would think TCU fans would be pretty eager to support our team if coach Gary Patterson is enviable enough that a Kansas State fan made a Web site encouraging his school to hire Patterson. This desire for Patterson was taken to the next level last Friday morning when GoPowercat.com, Rivals.com's Kansas State affiliate site, falsely reported Patterson had resigned from TCU to take the coaching job at K-State.

If we want to be known as a football school – a squad other teams consistently fear – we need to perpetuate a much more pro football atmosphere. The culture of TCU will have to be more football-friendly if we want to continue to strengthen our program.

In case you haven't noticed – and judging by game attendance, you haven't – TCU has rebounded very well after a disappointing 2007 season. The only two games the Frogs lost were away games against top-10 ranked teams in front of sold out crowds. Speaking of sold out crowds, this is where the lack of support is most evident.

TCU upset No. 9 Brigham Young University Oct. 16 at home, but the student section didn't even sell out, much less the game. On the contrary, as I was leaving Salt Lake City on Friday morning, Utah students were already camping out to get tickets for their 11/22 home game against BYU. That's right; Utah students were camping out (in 40 degree weather) for a chance to attend a home game. After noticing the extreme difference in levels of support between TCU and our rivals, I did some exploring as to why that might be.

The number of living alumni is one of the first things that sticks out. TCU has about 60,000 to 70,000 alumni still living, while the current enrollment, for example, at University of Texas at Austin is more than 50,000. With TCU having close to 10,000 current students, it makes sense that filling Amon G. Carter Stadium to its capacity of 44,000 is difficult.

Sure TCU football wasn't incredible in the '70s or '80s, but that's so long ago now that those decades are just party themes for current students. LaDainian Tomlinson, whose last season was 2000, holds more than 10 NFL records and was one of the best to ever play at TCU. How that doesn't get the TCU and the overall Fort Worth community more eager to see TCU play, I don't quite understand.

If non-TCU affiliated Fort Worth residents are going to play "hard to get" when it comes to game attendance, the leadership is going to have to come from within TCU. The little things that happen together reflect our attitude toward athletics. For example, many of my friends told me their Thursday night class wasn't canceled during the BYU game. That's pathetic if you ask me, but it's a good indication of what some professors think about our football team.

Another very negative event happened after the BYU football game. The hundreds of excited TCU students, eager to celebrate a monumental upset on the field with the football team, were met by some overaggressive TCU and Fort Worth Police officers. More experienced schools, such as the University of Utah after beating TCU last Thursday, don't send officers over to tackle students and knee them in the face like officers at TCU did. Instead, they carefully took down the goal posts to avoid injury and enjoyed the victory with the students.

All the little things we do that don't support an environment where TCU football can thrive add up to poor game attendance, which undeniably affects the outcome of close games. The best part about supporting football is that it rubs off on other sports. If football game attendance increases, so does attendance at other TCU sports. After all, this is Texas, where football always comes first.

If TCU can change its habits that don't support football, we will not only improve our student and alumni attendance, but we will also gain the support of the Fort Worth community, which could potentially make Amon G. Carter Stadium a pretty tough place to play.

John Andrew Willis is a sophomore environmental science major from Dallas.