Rather, it could be making a home game feel like a home game.
FAU’s constant struggle to draw fans assumes a deeper challenge in this year’s regular season finale because the Owls aren’t expecting the usual contingent of students – most of whom have returned home for the Thanksgiving holiday.
In year’s past fewer than 10,000 fans have occupied Howard Schnellenberger Field for games on the Saturday after Thanksgiving – sometimes far fewer.
The Owls concerted late push to draw fans to what is one of the most important games ever played in Boca Raton included a billboard advertising the game seen from I-95, email blasts and Paradise Pack promotion where fans can purchase two tickets and two concession stand vouchers for a total of $24 (Promo Code: PARADISE).
Those who attend Saturday’s game will see what many consider the second best FAU (8-3, 6-1) team in program history, behind only the 2017 C-USA title team.
Winners of eight of their last nine, the Owls haven’t created a buzz either on campus, locally or nationally quite like they did in 2017.
“I think that’s human nature,” coach Lane Kiffin said. “Once you win people forget where you were at before. That’s good and bad because it means you’re setting new standard.”
Kiffin led the Owls to a bowl game in his first season, ending a decade-long drought for FAU. The Owls won their first C-USA tournament that season.
And there was a buzz around the program that simply hasn’t materialized around this year’s team.
This year’s Owls lack a superstar like Devin Singletary, who challenged the NCAA’s single-season rushing touchdown record. Those Owls blew teams out in games often decided by halftime. These Owls play a more workmanlike brand of football, though all eight of their victories have been by double digits.
There are differences off the field, too. Nearly all of the marketing group responsible for creating the social media hype videos and bringing the symbolic Lane Train to campus are no longer with the athletic department. Even Kiffin hasn’t been as active on Twitter, an account that frequently brought national attention to FAU in 2017.
“I think maybe the fans, students, family and friends, they are just holding us to a higher standard,” running back James Charles said.
October’s dismissal of FAU Associate Director for External Relations Jessica Poole could be the first step in rebuilding that marketing department within the athletic department. Many of those who left didn’t enjoy working under her. FAU has since hired Andy Seeley, recently of UCF and the Mountain West Conference, as a replacement.
The Owls are still desperately trying to overcome the poor game day impression they made earlier this season when UCF came to Boca Raton. First-time visitors to Howard Schnellenberger Field struggled to get onto campus, couldn’t get through the gates in time for kickoff and waited in long lines at concession stands only to learn that FAU had run out of basic items such as water. Many of them will never return.
FAU administrators are optimistic regarding ticket sales for Saturday, but no one’s really certain about how many fans will actually attend and cheer for Owls’ team hoping to host their second C-USA championship in three years.
On the other sideline, Southern Miss (7-4, 5-2) enters with its own motivation. A Golden Eagles victory and they could be in the C-USA title game.
“Our fans, they need to catch on a little bit,” wide receiver Pico Harrison said.