Each week Big East Coast Bias polls bloggers around the conference on a football topic. How do their views differ from yours? This week, we asked:
Which Big East team's fan base travels best?
Survey said …
Now that West Virginia is out of the league, I don't think there's going to be one school that consistently travels well for football. It will all have to do with proximity to a given school, and the history with their opponent, and other factors. So I'm going to answer this based on who shows up strongest to USF games, and that means my answer is Louisville. They're the "closest" to Tampa, they have the longest sports history with USF of anyone in the league, and with how many Florida recruits they have on their team, many of their fans don't even have to come down from Kentucky. They can just come up from Miami or wherever.
With West Virginia gone, it becomes a bit of an interesting question. I'm not so sure any of our football fan bases are known for being great travelers. Syracuse fans only travel for basketball and we all saw how well UConn fans traveled to the Fiesta Bowl. I'm going to go with Louisville because I get the sense they take things a little more seriously than they get credit for. And especially this season, I expect them to really get excited about this team.
Man, maybe I'm just oblivious, but I've really got no idea. West Virginia was clear and away the best before, but with them out of the conference, I'm not sure. About the only gauge I have is road teams coming into Heinz Field and of the Big East members, I'd probably go with either Cincinnati or Louisville since I've seen a decent amount of fans from those teams in town.
Of the schools currently in the Big East it would probably be Louisville. Give it a couple of years and it could very well be Boise State.
Alright, let’s answer this question by taking a roll call throughout the league. First I’d have to say the best two travelling teams are Rutgers and Louisville, with a slight edge to Rutgers. Rutgers brought 17,000+ to its Texas Bowl game in 2006. Granted, that was a big season for the Scarlet Knights, but still it was Houston – half the country away – and it was the Texas Bowl. That was impressive. Louisville brought a good crowd to the Orange Bowl in 2007. The Cardinals pack the Papa John when the team is playing well and with their established following in basketball they already have the team spirit thing down. However, Rutgers has a large alumni base across the country and a core group of 15,000 fans that are ready and willing to go anywhere, most with deep enough pockets to afford it as well. You see this on road trips to USF or elsewhere. Should Rutgers end up in the Orange Bowl you can easily expect 25,000 with local alumni, the core group and bandwagoners looking for a good time in South Beach. The number could be 30,000 with the right opponent. A lot of ifs, but trust me it would happen.
The next tier would be Cincinnati. By all accounts they represented well in their Sugar Bowl trip to New Orleans in 2010. Therefore you have to say, having already proven their will to travel, they are decent bunch. You won’t however, see a lot of Bearcats fans at opponent games. This is why they lag behind the first two on this list.
Then you’d have to skip straight to a fourth tier. There is no third tier in the Big East. Next up would be Connecticut. They did not represent well in the Fiesta Bowl in 2011. Then again it wasn’t a good BCS team and most knew they would get smoked by Oklahoma. I think with their following in basketball – both men and women’s – they have a core group of fans that travel to opposing venues nearby and would make a trip to Florida for a good bowl matchup if the opportunity presented itself.
Then you have Syracuse, Pittsburgh, USF and Temple. Where to start? Let’s begin with Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Syracuse doesn’t travel well to bowl games. Don’t expect a big bowl contingent from them. If you lied and told all their subway alumni in New York City it was a basketball game, then maybe the number would swell. Of course since no one can remember their last bowl game outside of the state, it is hard to uncover any hard evidence either way. Pittsburgh embarrassed the conference in 2005 with its poor showing in Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl both on the field and in the stands. Good thing West Virginia picked up the slack the next season in Atlanta. Of course, the Mountaineers – the only true good traveling team in the Big East – will be in the Big 12 next season. The Panthers held their spring game in a high school field, so not to bother opening Heinz field for the whopping 4,607 fans that showed up. If you can’t muster 5,000 fans for a spring game, don’t expect much else in the way of away games or bowl games. The ACC bowl reps will be thrilled with these two schools. Hello Boise. Then again since all of Syracuse’s big home games against USC and the like will take place hundreds of miles away in New Jersey and hours and hours away from their fans in Northern New York, they can maybe try to count those games as "traveling."
South Florida is still struggling with its label as a commuter school. They have never won a weekday game in the Big East. This is always an issue since even traveling to their off-campus NFL stadium is a challenge on a weekday for their fan base. Don’t expect them to go anywhere else – and quite frankly why would you want to leave Tampa for a football game in Louisville or Birmingham? Then you have Temple. Save your time and Google the images of Temple home games. Please don’t respond back with the images of the Penn State game either. That was one game. The Owls need to work on filling their own stadium before traveling to others. Hopefully San Diego State, SMU, Memphis and others can pick up the slack in years to come.
At Rentschler Field, it's Syracuse, with Rutgers a very close second. There are a lot of Cuse alumni in Connecticut who are very supportive of their alma mater. I enjoy the Syracuse games because the interaction in the stands is often as entertaining as the game on the field.
Check out last week’s confab: Which Draftee Will Have The Most Success In The NFL? in the BECB football section.