Former Super Bowl and Heisman trophy-winning quarterback, Roger Staubach, once said, “In any team sport, the best teams have consistency.” For the past decade, the University of West Georgia has been searching for consistency within their football program. Win-loss records since 2004 have ranged between 7-4 (2005) and 0-10 (2008). In that time, student attendance has been lacking. When attendance suffers, excitement suffers, when excitement suffers, recruiting suffers and when recruiting suffers, the program suffers.
It is an on-going trend that has been plaguing the Wolves lately, and the athletic program and UWG is doing everything within their power to stop it.
The students used to have a semi-valid excuse as to why they did not go to the games. The games were being played at Grisham Stadium, the home of the Carrollton High School football team. Some students just could not get excited about a college game played in a high school stadium.
The school put an end to that excuse in 2009, when it unveiled University Stadium, which is now recognized as one of the top stadiums in Division II college football. Attendance improved but was still not good. The product on the field was not fairing well either, going 1-9 in the stadium’s inaugural season and following that up with 3-7, 6-4 and 3-7 seasons. As is the case with most college football programs, when the team struggles, attendance struggles.
Even though attendance was still not up to par in the new stadium, people around the Gulf South Conference were noticing the upgrade in facilities; specifically West Alabama head coach, Will Hall.
After going 6-5 last season, former head coach Daryl Dickey took the job as UWG’s Athletic Director and stepped down as head coach. This opened the door for Coach Hall, who had just led West Alabama to an 8-3 record and their second straight Gulf South Conference championship.
Coach Hall’s hiring has built more buzz around UWG’s football program than there has been in a long time, and Hall and others within the athletic department are taking advantage of it.
“Coach Hall is on board with making it to where people want to come and watch the game, not just come and be a part of the exterior,” said Matt Cooke, Assistant Sports Information Director at UWG. “That is what we are trying to do with everything that we are doing.”
UWG now has a new tailgating zone for students before the game on the top of the hill behind the east side of the stadium. Live music, such as bands and DJ’s, are usually performing as entertainment before games, creating a great pre-game atmosphere.
The student section has also been moved directly behind the visitors’ sideline, encouraging students to help add to the home field advantage during games. So far, it has been a huge success.
Cooke is most excited about is the beginning of a new tradition called the “Wolf Walk,” where the band and students will make a tunnel to cheer on the team as they walk back from their pre-game routine. The tunnel will lead to the tailgate zone so students can continue tailgating after the walk. The “Wolf Walk” begins at the new Bronze Wolf, and ends at the tailgating zone.
“This is what’s coming,” said Cooke. “The students that are here right now are going to be a part of something that no one has ever been a part of before now, and that’s something to be really proud of.”