The Lehigh football team has won two consecutive Patriot League titles, having found success in the latter half of the 2017 campaign after winning nine games in a row to end the 2016 season.
Despite a winning trend within the team, attendance at football games has been steadily declining.
In 2016, when Lafayette hosted the rivalry game, an average of 6,527 spectators attended home games at Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium. In 2017, the NCAA reported a slight rise in attendance to 7,138 over the span of six Lehigh home games, including the annual rivalry contest.
This season, an average of 4,660 spectators attended the Mountain Hawks’ first two home games against Villanova and St. Francis. While this data only includes attendance from two home games, there is clear agreement between students and student-athletes that more seats should be filled at Goodman Stadium on Saturdays.
Junior offensive lineman Derek Lomax said the student body is supportive of the football team, however, students might not be fully invested in the team’s success.
“Obviously the attendance isn’t as high as the team would like for it to be,” Lomax said.
Robert Kasumi, ’20, said he is deterred from attending football games because getting to and from Goodman Stadium can be a hassle.
While Lehigh offers buses from Asa Packer campus to Goodman Stadium, they run on a strict schedule and do not begin to return to campus until halftime. Ubers and Lyfts often have surge pricing at the time of the games, making this option more expensive for students.
Lomax said the lure of parties or MoCos, a Saturday-morning tradition among some Lehigh students, is tough to compete with. However, with the introduction of tailgate plots at Goodman Stadium, Lomax hopes attendance at the games will increase.
Kasumi said he believes the decline in attendance at football games is due to an overwhelming police presence at tailgates.
“Instead of LUPD focusing all their efforts on citing underage students at tailgates, they should focus on other, more pressing issues like the massive thievery problem Bethlehem faces,” Kasumi said.
Johnny Kehl, ’21, said attendance at the first game of the season is usually good, but there is often a dip between the first week and the weeks leading up to Le-Laf.
Kehl said because the university is not a major football school in comparison to colleges and universities in other athletic conferences, it is hard for the Mountain Hawks to sell out their stadium every Saturday. He said there are schools in the Patriot League that do not have football teams, leaving Lehigh to compete against teams outside its conference.
Lomax said Lehigh can implement changes in order to raise attendance. By making travel to and from the games more convenient and creating a “game-day experience,” Lomax said he is optimistic that attendance at home games will increase.