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Ramsey: So many empty seats; Air Force football fans offer list of complaints

October 29, 2015 Updated: October 30, 2015 at 9:50 am
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A small crowd watches the Air Force/Fresno State game during the fourth quarter Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, at Falcon Stadium on the Air Force Academy. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The Air Force fans who complain the loudest about late kickoff times and paying to park and moving games to Dallas are the ones who attend games.

These aren't the fans who sit at home, big bag of chips in their laps, and watch games on a high-def, big-screen TV. The comfort level is high. The commitment level is low.

These fans make the journey to Falcon Stadium, sit in the stands and hope for change. They are committed.

And unhappy.

After Air Force's win over Fresno State, I wrote about the sparse attendance at Falcon Stadium. I asked, "Where is everybody?"

Three dozen fans responded. Many of them are long-time buyers of season tickets. Most are teetering in their commitment in 2016 to attend every home game. All had suggestions and complaints to share.

Here's a sampling of their gripes:

1. Late games

"We need noon games on Saturday, period," writes Michelle.

I've yet to talk with anyone who supports the idea of the Falcons kicking off at 8:15 p.m. This is a profitable move for the Falcons. I understand that. It's also universally unpopular with the football team's most devoted supporters.

2. Paying to park

A couple years ago, local sports announcer/guru Matt Pauley asked me on air if the Falcons adding a $10 charge for parking would alter attendance.

I said yes.

You have to understand Air Force football fans to understand why a seemingly nominal charge bothers them so much. If a fan has enjoyed free parking for 15 seasons, the $10 charge in the 16th season is going to sting.

"We park in a dirt field," writes Greg. "What are we paying for? ... Adding paying for parking is a slap in the face to loyal fans."

3. Cost of tickets

The Falcons charge reasonable prices for football tickets. If you place the price in the context of Colorado sports market, the Falcons are a relative bargain. That's my view.

Not everyone agrees.

"Too expensive," writes Mark Laborde. "$40 a ticket is not reasonable."

Laborde contends that Air Force has placed itself out of the price range of a typical young family.

4. Moving home games.

Athletic director Jim Knowlton is excited about taking the Falcons to Dallas next season to play New Mexico at the Cotton Bowl. Air Force still will play six games at Falcon Stadium.

Coach Troy Calhoun declines to join the excitement. He strongly opposes moving any home games.

He's not alone.

"Listen to Coach Calhoun," writes Gerald. "I would advise the athletic department to quit being so greedy."

5. Lack of hospitality, in general, at the academy

The academy strengthened security after the terrorist attacks of 2001. This strengthening was understandable.

This strengthening also carried a price. Many Air Force fans have stories of complicated, time-consuming and irritating experiences while trying to enter or depart the academy on non-game days.

"We are not welcome at USAFA most of the time," writes Mike. "So we can and will spend our money somewhere else. ... It's not the same as before ... There is a schism between city folks and the academy."

A schism?

Sure thought I recognized a schism, a widening one, on Saturday when the Falcons mauled the Bulldogs of Fresno State.

6. Lack of exciting, marquee opponents

The departure of Utah and, especially, Brigham Young from the Mountain West robbed Air Force fans of intense rivalries that featured rich, bitter history.

"No one cares about Mountain West opponents," writes R.R.

R.R. says fans care about Colorado State, Wyoming and "possibly" Boise State.

But that's it.

R.R. contends most fans fail to get excited about New Mexico, Fresno State, etc. No fan gets jump-up-and-down happy about invasions from weaklings such as Morgan State, Nicholls State, etc.

Oh, and one other thing:

R.R. wants a cup holder at his seat in Falcon Stadium.

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