Calling NC State’s 12th man

September 3, 2013 

Dave Doeren, N.C. State’s new football coach, is wooing recruits to play the team’s key position: 12th man.

Doeren was happy with the Wolfpack’s 40-14 win over Louisiana Tech in Saturday’s season opener. He wasn’t pleased, though, that many fans – the team’s proverbial 12th man – chose to spend the second half resuming the pregame tailgate party or simply went home to beat the heat and the traffic.

The coach blew the whistle on that at his weekly news conference Monday. Doeren said the team needs its fans in the stands for the second half. “The passion that our fan base has, we need them to be in the seats in the third and fourth quarter to be a great team,” he said. It’s understandable that Doeren, who this year steps up to a bigger stage after coaching at Northern Illinois, was miffed to see the Carter-Finley Stadium crowd dwindle to Division III levels. But we think Doeren is appealing to the wrong crowd.

The reason the stands emptied Saturday has to do with athletic administrators at the N.C. State and ACC levels. Kowtowing to TV, schedulers set up a late-summer game to start at 12:30 p.m. Who cares if that means fans have to broil in the stands in 90-degree heat? The hour suited the TV powers. If fans who actually turn out for games were a priority, the game would have been set for late afternoon or early evening.

Some suggest the problem is an N.C. State policy that lets fans leave the stadium at halftime and then return. But the policy is a pleasant tradition at State.

The heat and the desire for a halftime beverage are hardly the only reasons fans drifted away after halftime. Indeed, it is a testament to the loyalty of Wolfpack fans that more than 50,000 showed up for the first half to see a game against Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs are a fine Conference USA team, but N.C. State should schedule stronger challengers and provide fans a better contest for all its home games.

Since college football added an extra game in 2006 to make a 12-game regular season, major football schools have responded by scheduling teams that provide little contest and less entertainment. Next week, State fans not too sunburned from Saturday’s experience are invited to go out and root on the Wolfpack against the Richmond Spiders.

If State wants a good second-half crowd, it should try playing teams that will give the Pack a good game. Otherwise, there’s no need for the 12th man.

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