If someone wants to relieve Rick Stansbury of his duties as the head coach at Mississippi State, they might have some ammo in the clip. You could say that the team's failure to reach the Sweet 16 is troubling. You could point to the issues with players such as Renardo Sidney and say it is unacceptable. You could worry about players who have left the program. However to look at the Kentucky game and say that Rick Stansbury has led to the creation of apathy in the fan base is just flat wrong.
It startled me a bit when I saw that the Tuesday night affair held the 19th largest crowd in the history of the Hump. I figured it would be a top-ten game until I really started thinking about it. This was a game on a Tuesday night at 8. This game was being played on Fat Tuesday. Fans can sit in the comfort of their own home and watch the affair in HD.
The fact that the game was a 8 pm tip was enough to keep people home. A fan living in Jackson would not have been home until 1 am Wednesday morning from that game, and most would have had to be at work by 8 or 9. That is not a bargain.
A midweek tip, especially at 8, is almost impossible for coast fans to attend. In fact, I would be wiling to make a small wager ($5 to the first person to take it) that a majority of the top 20 attended games came between Thursday and Sunday.
Add those factors up with a sagging economy, rising fuel, and the payoffs of Christmas gifts (budget for them, don't buy them on credit..free advice), it should not surprise anyone that this game was not a top-tenner. Going to sporting events comes from discretionary spending, and right now, there is not much money for that for many people.
The most important aspect of the smaller than expected crowd is this. It is not the players', coaches' or administration's fault. I have never met anyone who attended a game just to see a coach. Fans go to games to cheer for a team. I cannot understand any situation where I would not go to games or boo players because I was unhappy with what was going on. It sounds like that is what a few fans did Tuesday, and here is a dirty secret, they will do it against most coaches at the first hint of trouble.
It is very important for teams to bring in fans to keep money coming into the program. Tuesday night, the Hump was nearly full. It is not as if half of the fan base turned away. In fact, I think a silent majority of the fans want Stansbury to stay.
If Rick Stansbury is fired, I have no doubt that part of that thought process would be "firing up the fan base." Here is the problem. Next year looks to be a difficult season for whomever the coach is. Why would you saddle that on a new coach? Why not let Stansbury finish this year and the next and then make the move.
If you replace Stansbury this year, you are potentially handicapping your new coach right off the bat. His first season, which should be a honeymoon period, has a good chance of being turbulent, and he will have a negative first impression on the fan base. More importantly, who exactly will be this new coach? Who is on that short list, and who is willing to leave their current program to come to Mississippi State. The list may not be so grand.
In the end, fans don't pay to see a coach. They pay to see a team. They pay to cheer. They pay to support a program. If they choose to stay home, it is not a reflection on the coaching staff, it is a reflection them and their hopes to see the program decline to get what they want in a new coach.
No matter the situation, support your team.