Empty seats

Kyle Riviere
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

It's not that often that LSU fans have to be brought to task and when it does happen, it's never a Tiger that's doing the grilling.

However, that changed last week as LSU true freshman safety Jamal Adams went to Twitter to vent about the dwindling support of his fellow Tiger athletes on the basketball team.

After there was a mass exodus of LSU fans during the Tigers' disappointingly futile home effort against Tennessee, Adams had, had enough.

He wrote, "I can't hold my tongue. LSU fans show no loyalty. You expect so much from us athletes but won't stay and support through the whole game."

Adams then pulled back a tad in his next two tweets that said, "LSU has been known for having such prideful and loyal fans, and I hate to see people ruining that image. The game's not over until it ends" and "I know it's not all LSU fans. I'm grateful for all the support. I just understand what it's like on the other side, as a pressured athlete."

As expected, his comments received their share of criticism. On my way to a game last week, I had to hear Eagle 98.1's Richard Condon go off on Adams during a rant that seemed to span over five minutes.

But unlike many of Adams' detractors, I had no objection to what he sad because sadly, what he said was the truth.

I know that's hard for many LSU fans to hear. We've been known as one of the most passionate and imposing fan bases around but over the last few years, we've been slipping.

There's no doubt about it, Baton Rouge has never been a big basketball town. Except for when the team is in the top 25, there has never been the fervent energy around the basketball program as there is for football or even baseball.

Still, the basketball team hasn't gotten a heck of a lot of support over the last few years.

The team we have this year, yes, they have underachieved. Yes, they have certainly been disappointing in spots. But at the end of the day, they're still a winning basketball team that boasts a 22-9 record.

They're competing for an NCAA Tournament bid, and they have a very talented roster that includes future NBA players in Jarrell Martin and Jordan Mickey.

Despite those positives, attendance hasn't exactly been a strength for the Tigers. There have been many games where the PMAC was half-full. There were even some games where it was less than half-full.

And then there was the root of Adams' rant last Wednesday night. Yes, LSU was playing very poorly and down 18 to Tennessee, but there was plenty of time left for them to mount a comeback. The fans left in droves anyway.

But the diminished Tiger support hasn't only been a basketball thing.

LSU still leads the nation in baseball paid attendance but as of late, the numbers have been way down.

Last year, the Tigers averaged 5,404 fans per game--which was the lowest mark in the six years of the new Alex Box Stadium. They only drew 9,000 or more fans once in 2014. Between 2009-2013, they did it 14 times.

So far this season, it's been pretty similar. There have been more and more empty seats.

Even football has started to feel the effects.

I vividly remember a game against a ranked Florida team back in 2013 where the game wasn't even close to being a sellout.

They had trouble all season filling the new 102,000-seat stadium and even when it was filled, they had trouble keeping it that way.

The students have always been notorious for leaving early, but many other fans have followed suit. Against lesser opponents, when the game comes back after halftime, we're introduced to a Tiger Stadium that has lost almost a third of its fans.

Nothing was worse than this year's loss to Mississippi State. I realize we were down 34-10, but fans were filing out with still a quarter and a half left to play.

By the time the Tigers made their frantic comeback and were just a hail Mary away from winning, the stadium was less than half-full.

Anything can happen. I remember being in the student section back in 2008 when we were down 31-3 to Troy late in the third quarter. Most of the fans bailed out; I stayed.

It's a good thing I did. LSU scored 37 unanswered points to win the game.

Don't get me wrong, the fans are still showing up and when they are, they're still the best in the nation. That was quite evident in that epic upset win over Ole Miss this past season.

The problem is, the fans are only showing up to that effect once and twice a season now.

There are many understandable reasons why fans decide to leave early. You can get a good jump on the brutal post-game traffic.

Fans probably avoid going to the games because of the expensive ticket and parking prices. I understand that.

Just don't get upset when athletes voice their frustration over looking into the stands and seeing a bunch of empty seats.