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ECU crowd numbers even lower

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East Carolina fans are surrounded by empty seats at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium during the home againt Temple on Oct. 7, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


The Daily Reflector

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The turnstiles turned even less than they did a week ago at East Carolina's Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday afternoon, and far fewer fans remained to watch the entirety of the Pirates' 34-10 football loss to Temple.

A week after an announced crowd of 34,883 paid to watch ECU lose to South Florida, a meager 31,326 were announced on Saturday as ECU’s record fell to 1-5.

It is the lowest announced attendance since a November 2005 game against UAB when Skip Holtz was in his first season as head coach.

East Carolina's announced crowds, the biggest in the American Athletic Conference on average, are a measure of the total number of tickets sold, including season tickets, and not necessarily the total number of fans actually in the seats.

It also marks consecutive weeks with attendance lower than it has been in the previous decade, though the game was played on the weekend of ECU's fall break.

Head coach Scottie Montgomery defended the fans after the game.

“I don't know if it's necessarily connected. We play football on the field,” Montgomery said of his team's loss. “We play with a lot of people sometimes, but then we go to other venues. ... Our fans are great. They show up and they do what they're supposed to do. They keep working, they keep fighting. There were people out there at the last second when we weren't in the game.”

ECU players had mixed feelings about the crowd, but mostly deflected the blame onto themselves for the flat performance.

In fact, senior receiver Jimmy Williams, a product of nearby Washington High School, was steadfast in his stance that the team needs to play better to help build the stadium atmosphere back up to previous heights.

"I looked out there today and looked at it as inspiration," he said. "We have to get this back to what it was. That stadium should never look like that. Ever. It's a reflection of us, because we are not playing good right now."

Quarterback Thomas Sirk agreed, saying that big crowds can have an influence but should not be a deciding factor in games.

“It definitely has a different energy when you have a fan base out there but for us, we've got to come out no matter who is in the stands,” he said.

There was plenty of chatter inside and outside of the stadium before kickoff about the expected low attendance, and some people were confident there would be a better atmosphere if the team was faring better on the field.

A longtime Pirate club member brought up the fall break factor and that the Pirates at the halfway point of the season are on track for a third straight losing season.

“When you win, people are going to show up. When you don’t, they don’t,” the fan said about 11:20 a.m. ahead of the noon kickoff and as he was heading to his seat.