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What will our attendance be for the EIU game?

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NU fans: The few, the proud
NU fans: The few, the proud

There are all kinds of reasons to be hyped up about Saturday’s home opener. We’ve got an exciting team coming off a big win against BC. We’ve got some nice buzz from Dan Persa’s Heisman campaign. It’s a 2:30 CT kickoff, so yay! to tailgating. We’re getting votes in the AP and coaches polls. Fitz is Fitz. And it’s the home opener, yo!

All of which indicates that attendance on Saturday should be great and that there will be a solid showing of purple in the stands….except potentially for the fact that our opponent is Eastern Illinois. No offense to Panther fans out there, but Eastern Illinois isn’t exactly the type of program that sets a college football fan’s heart a-flutter.

Combine that with the fact that students aren’t on campus yet, and NU fans being what they are, now how are we thinking the attendance will be?

NU has played five FCS teams in Fitz’ tenure so far. Here’s the list, with the attendance, after the poll and the jump:

2006: New Hampshire, 20,108. Fitz was in his rookie season as head coach, and we were coming off a relatively decent 7-5 record and Sun Bowl appearance.

2007: Northeastern, 16,199. People couldn’t stomach the thought of losing another game to an FCS foe, and they stayed away in droves.

2008: Southern Illinois, 19,062. We played an in-state team, which helped somewhat with ticket sales, though a torrential downpour the day of the game definitely ruined walk-up sales.

2009: Towson, 17,857. If a tree falls in a forest, and nobody's there to see it, did Arby Fields really average 8.0 ypg ypc in this game?

2010: Illinois State, 25,471. We played another in-state foe, and that combined with Mike Polisky’s revamped ticket office operations and marketing campaign helped boost attendance to more-than-half-full.

By all accounts, that marketing campaign has continued to pay dividends this season, and rumors have it that our season ticket base is even higher this year, despite the lack of a Wrigley Field game. We’re also playing another in-state team, which should bring in a decent contingent of visiting fans or the locally curious.

A quick check of StubHub shows that fans are paying as much as $45 a ticket for this game, which is $10 above the face value of those seats.

If that’s any kind of indication of how eager people are for this game, and factoring in the marketing campaign and the general buzz around the program, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict an attendance of 30,000 for our home opener.

What say you, fan base?