Both Georgia and Georgia Tech fans will read Sippin’ on Purple’s post on how Michigan fans took over Ryan Field on Saturday night and find it immediately familiar. A college football program – one from a small-ish (by BCS conference standards), highly selective school whose graduates tend to migrate all over the country after graduation - has trouble selling tickets and thus sees visiting hordes of fans swarm like locusts when their team visits. Nope, we aren’t familiar with any scenarios like that. And the post also mentions Boston College, which has similar attendance issues. Factor in the issues that Miami, Tulane, UCLA, and Pitt have and you have a consistent pattern in college football: urban programs struggle to draw.
In light of that context, Georgia Tech deserves some credit for taking the right approach to putting butts in the seats. The most important issue for an urban college football program is to win. As Sippin’ on Purple points out, Northwestern drew in the mid-90s when Gary Barnett’s teams were winning back-to-back Big Ten titles and Boston College drew when Doug Flutie won the Heisman and led BC to the Cotton Bowl in 1984. USC certainly illustrates this point, as well. When they win, they sell out. When they don’t win, you get to see what the Coliseum looks like half-empty. TCU’s success under Gary Patterson has allowed them to draw well enough to merit an invitation from the Big XII. Georgia Tech has won under Paul Johnson, which has put them in position to sell tickets.
The second-most important issue for an urban college football program is to play with style. Georgia doesn’t need to worry about playing exciting football because Dawg fans are going to pack Sanford Stadium and various road venues regardless. Thus, wins like the vanilla asphyxiations of Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Tennessee are perfectly acceptable. Those type of wins would be more problematic for Georgia Tech. Like Buzz Lightyear, the Jackets need to fall with style.* The fact that the Jackets are leading the nation in yards per play is relevant. It’s not just a means to the end of winning football games; it is an end by itself. Even when Georgia Tech won under Chan Gailey, their teams were hard to watch. Paul Johnson makes sense for them because his teams can score points. That is a necessity for the Jackets to have an actual homefield advantage.
* – This is what happens when you have two small boys. Just wait for the extended analogy between the flex option and the turntable at Tidmouth Sheds.