After Tennessee’s loss to Georgia State last weekend, social media became a firestorm. Vol fans were rightfully upset after the Vols’ season-opening loss to the Panthers, and they took to Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media to vent their frustrations.
Unfortunately for UT fans, the in-fighting wasn’t contained to arguments with other Vol fans.
Some Tennessee players, whether outright or through subtle implication, used their social media platforms to call out fans for “lack of support” and for their criticisms of the team.
All in all, last week was a rough one for the fan-athlete relationship at UT. But over 92,000 fans still showed up to Neyland Stadium on Saturday night to watch Tennessee take on BYU, and the crowd was very loud throughout the game.
Their reward? Watching Tennessee blow a lead and fall in double-overtime to the Cougars.
After the game, several UT players met with the media to discuss the loss and their thoughts on the game. All of the players were asked what their message is to all the Vol fans who left Neyland Stadium, once again, disappointed.
“Bear with us,” defensive lineman LaTrell Bumphus said. “We’re going to continue to fight. Just keep coming out and supporting us.”
Offensive lineman Marcus Tatum echoed that sentiment from Bumphus, saying he and his teammates are “gonna come back and keep fighting” for the fans.
As for running back Ty Chandler, he also asked fans to keep supporting the team despite the brutal start to the 2019 season. But he also expressed his gratitude for what the fans have done so far and how much they’ve already given to him and the team.
“My message to the fans? Man, I love y’all. I enjoy y’all,” Chandler said. “I appreciate y’all coming out and watching us. We need y’all behind us. I want y’all to keep coming out. This team is going to get better.
“We got 10 games left, and I feel like we’re gonna keep pushing. We gotta keep pushing.”
Despite not being rewarded for their efforts, Vol fans have continued to show up en masse for both home and away games over the last decade. In Tennessee’s historically bad 2017 campaign, Neyland Stadium still saw an average of 95,779 fans in attendance for home games that season. Last year, there was an average of nearly 93,000 fans for every home game (92,984), and that was the lowest average since the 2012 season saw only an average of 89,965 fans show up for home games.
Since Phillip Fulmer’s firing in 2008, Vol fans have been treated to just four winning seasons over the last decade-plus. But aside from that 2012 season, Neyland Stadium has still seen an average of over 92,000 fans in attendance each season since 2008.
After Saturday’s collapse and the overall dismal outlook for Tennessee’s 2019 campaign, fan attendance is likely to plummet the rest of this season, especially with only one marquee home game remaining on the schedule (vs. Georgia, Oct. 5th). But the players are hoping the fans will continue to come to the games, show their support, and give UT a home field advantage in Knoxville.
Ty Chandler is hopeful Vol fans will listen to his plea, and he’s also hopeful his teammates will feed off that support and give fans a reason to celebrate sometime this season.