Call it the Empty Dome.
The covered fortress that the Idaho Vandals call home was as sparse as ever on a day that saw Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr push the issue of his Heisman candidacy and trounce the Vandals 61-14.
Although official attendance numbers claim that 14,740 people attended the battle between former conference foes, most on hand would argue that 10,000 people was even a stretch.
After a reassuring Homecoming win over Temple, with a Top 25 team in town and considering that Idaho fans will watch their team play twice more in the Kibbie Dome this season, the effort of the Vandal faithful was far less impressive than that of its football team Saturday.
While we try to track down the person responsible for adding an extra zero to the end of the final attendance number, here are five reasons why the Kibbie Dome has been nowhere to close to full three home contests in, and primarily on Saturday, when attendance numbers seemed to be at their worst.
1. A frightening independant slate
When Rob Spear finalized the team’s 2013 independent schedule, Vandal fans shuddered the same way an eight-year-old would while watching “The Last Exorcism.” Two Heisman candidates and 96 points later, it would be hard to blame someone for skipping games against Northern Illinois and Fresno State. Coming into the NIU game — Idaho’s home opener — with a 0-2 record doesn’t bode well for a fan base that knows the situation too well. Tack two more losses on to that and you can come up with reasons as to why the Dome wasn’t at full capacity for a winnable Homecoming game against Temple. Idaho could be looking at 1-7 by the time it returns home to play a Texas State team that walloped the Vandals last season. Those who haven’t already lost interest surely will by Nov. 2.
2. Take the lid off the Kibbie Dome
There’s something to be said about outdoor college football, especially when it’s played under a crystal clear sky on a crisp Saturday afternoon without a cloud in sight. The conditions were spectacular this past weekend and UI students and Moscow residents won’t be able to say the same in the near future, when snow and rain will curb their weekend plans. Walking into the Dome after hours of tailgating only to watch their team get drubbed draws comparisons to a class of third-graders being called back into class after recess.
3. Petrino’s no coach Akey, bubba
Robb Akey didn’t win much during his final few years in Moscow. But in coaching, minor victories can mean the most and Akey won the hearts of his fans, even weeks before the program let him go. Paul Petrino has yet to gain that following and to his credit, it seems to be the least of his concerns at this point. His post game antics after the WSU loss didn’t help his case and the first-year head coach isn’t doing much to up his likability. If boosters and alumni don’t gravitate to a coach’s personality, and that coach’s program is 1-5, attendance will always be hard to come by.
4. A tough sell
The marketing department may have had something going with the Ring the Bell campaign. May have are the key words there. Though the win-loss column doesn’t do them any favors when selling tickets, but the marketing department hasn’t taken many strides itself. So why should fans come and watch a 1-4 Idaho team lend itself to a beating from Fresno State? If you have to, use the elite quarterbacks Idaho’s faced as selling points, like Fresno State’s Derek Carr and Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch, because who sells tickets better than a Heisman Trophy candidate?
5. No stars in this Dome
Without a Derek Carr or a Jordan Lynch on the roster, let alone any kind of star power that the pair of Heisman candidates possess, fans certainly aren’t showing up to watch an individual player or players. If Chad Chalich replicates his Temple performance a few more times, his Coeur d’Alene camp could grow substantially. Let’s hope the young gunner can do that, for the sake of winning and attendance.
Theo Lawson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org