Column: Without fan support, Longhorns will continue to struggle at home

Garrett Callahan

Given all the changes new head coach Charlie Strong has made since arriving in Austin, not much remains from the Mack Brown-era at Texas.

However, one thing that has remained constant despite all the changes is Texas’ lackluster fan base.

In the last few years of Brown’s tenure, Texas became notorious in the Big 12 for its poor fan support. Despite the program’s “come early, be loud, stay late, wear orange,” tagline, students were known to arrive late and, unless a game came down to the wire, leave early.

But, with a new head coach and a fresh attitude within the program, the Longhorn faithfuls were expected to be out in full force to usher in the new era.

However, just a day ahead of its third game of the season at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Texas has yet to sell out a home game. In fact, thousands of tickets are still available for tomorrow’s game against No. 7 Baylor.

For the Longhorns to return to national prominence, they need more from their fan base.

Among the current top-15 teams in the AP poll, the majority of them are supported by fans that rank among the best in the country. Having a favorable atmosphere at home games is perhaps a bigger advantage in college football than any other sport.

While it’s obvious that fan support will typically increase in response to a team’s production, Texas would benefit drastically from the opposite. If Longhorn fans show up in greater numbers, they may be surprised by how much the on-field product improves.

A loud stadium creates an immense home field advantage for any team. Opponents are forced to overcome the noise level to effectively communicate and are usually intimidated by the atmosphere. The home team, on the other hand, can feed off the excitement and use crowd response to build momentum.

Over the past few seasons, however, Texas simply hasn’t experienced such an advantage. Instead, fans of visiting teams have come into Austin and, at times, been louder than the home crowd. Ole Miss fans chanting “S-E-C” after the Rebels’ victory over Texas last season and BYU faithfuls screaming as junior quarterback Taysom Hill ran all over the Longhorns this year are a couple of obvious examples.

It’s gotten so bad that in 2012, former Longhorn safety Kenny Vaccaro went as far as to say that playing on the 40 Acres may not be an advantage at all for Texas.

“I like, without a doubt, playing on the road better than playing at home,” Vaccaro said. “It’s way louder and gets me way [more excited]. No offense to our fans, but [Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium] is not loud.”

A week after that statement, against a top-10 West Virginia team, Longhorn fans produced one of the loudest home games of Brown’s tenure in Austin.

Strong and his players have yet to publicly state similar disappointment in this year’s fan support, but, as poor attendance numbers continue to mount, so will the losses.