Since Papa John’s Stadium expansion was completed in 2010, the Cards have experienced record attendance figures. When the stadium opened in 1998 capacity was a steady 42,000, and about 36-38,000 Card fans regularly attended ball games during the John L. Smith era. Bobby Petrino’s tenure, ole 41-9 had two consecutive seasons of near capacity (all were sold out) crowds of 41,000+ on average. Steve Kragthorpe’s 1st two years saw a steady 39,780 average (impressive considering the product on the field), which was surprisingly higher than the average attendance during the John L. Smith era when the Cards were consistently in bowl games. In Year 3 (2009) of Kragthorpe, capacity was reduced to 40,000 to accommodate expansion construction and Louisville Football experienced a low average of 32,450 and record one-game low crowd on Halloween (3:30 start time) against a Sun Belt opponent that drew 21,497 fans (UofL was 2-5 going into game).
Enter Charlie Strong. Year 1 of Charlie Strong was the re-birth of Cardinal Football. Expansion was complete. A new coach was in place and the Cards were immediately competitive on the football field to go along with a season of beautiful weather. Thus, record attendance in 2010 averaging 50,648 through 7 games. Expectations were low for the 2011 team and the team started slow, but the fans still maintained most of their momentum from 2010 while pulling 48,537 each week. The REAL interesting evaluation was the 2012 season. In 2012 the weather was brutal, the worst games (Missouri State & Temple) had the best weather, while games against UK, North Carolina, and Cincinnati were rain soaked, and the USF & UConn games were unseasonably cold. Still….the fans showed up 49,991 strong, 349,938 in total which was just 5000 shy of the 2010 record.
The 2012 season average of 49,991 attendance figure is a 13,220 increase from a decade ago in 2003, a 36% increase in 10 years.
Moving into the 2013 season I FULLY expect that fans will break the 2010 mark for attendance. The first 3 games of the year lack the ‘name brand’ but Ohio is a VERY good football team (made an appearance in the Top 25 in 2012), the Eastern Kentucky game should be your typical Louisville Football party atmosphere if blessed with good weather in early September and heading into the Kentucky game at Commonwealth, and the Florida International Panthers gave the Cards a big time scare in Miami last year.
From there, the schedule actually improves quite a bit. Remember how good last year’s Rutgers game was? Then Central Florida comes to town, who won 10 games in 2012 and scared the life out of Ohio State in the Horseshoe. After a two-game road trip, the Cards will be home for two consecutive mid-late November games (not the best weather) against Houston & Memphis. This will be a very IMPORTANT time of the year if the Cards are doing as well as we all hope, National Championship contenders & Heisman trophies (and other post-season awards) are usually decided in November.
The schedule isn’t the best. But your team is. Your program is worth it. These kids work extremely hard and are doing special things. I know that CardNation will support this group in 2013 and set an attendance record, only to be broken in 2014.