By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
Gone are the days when Baylor football was an annual contender in the Big 12 Conference and captivating fans’ hearts with a lightning quick offense.
Baylor is only a couple years removed from the Bears putting up historic numbers on the offensive side of the ball en route to nine-, 10- and 11-win seasons.
McLane Stadium, built in 2014 to house a maximum of 45,410 fans, blew away the capacity and averaged just over 46,000 in attendance in 2014 and 2015. In 2016 the number dropped, but only down to 45,838, which is still above capacity.
While there have only been three home games this season, just 43,760 fans on average have shown up to cheer on the Bears, a 5 percent drop from last season.
First year head coach Matt Rhule‘s brand of Baylor football has yet to be identified due to the massive rebuilding project he accepted. That process has taken a toll on attendance at home games.
Ticket sales, seem fine for the time being, with Baylor holding a 97 percent retention rate for season ticket holders from the 2016 to 2017 season, according to Baylor Athletic Communications.
Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) crowds averaged 43,106 fans per game in the 2016 season, so Baylor is still above average in that department.
While Baylor is currently eighth in average attendance in the Big 12 Conference, ahead of only TCU and Kansas. When stadium capacity is taken into account, the Bears sit at fourth in the conference in percentage of the stadium filled per game this season at 97 percent.
In the last week’s 49-41 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma, potentially the biggest home game of the season for the Bears, only 43,573 people were in attendance.
Despite the lower numbers, Rhule said the fans played a big part in the game.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank our crowd,” Rhule said. “I thought they were fantastic, inspiring and I think they showed our players just how valued they are.”
Players noticed the fan support too. Senior linebacker Taylor Young said every detail matters in a game, including the energy the team gets from the crowd.
“The crowd was great,” Young said. “We always preach every day in practice just every little detail, all the small details will end up coming together in the end. So just having that crowd out there was great.”
Considering this is their worst start to a season since 1999, the Bears need all the support they can get in order to make this rebuilding process work.
The next opportunity for fans to come cheer on the Bears is Oct. 21 against West Virginia as a part of homecoming weekend. The time has yet to be announced.