Gator Nation Is Shrinking

Posted: May 7, 2012 in Florida Gators
Tags: , , ,

Will Muschamp made his annual Gator Gathering stop in Jacksonville last week and spoke joyously about how Gator Nation has stayed positive in light of back-to-back mediocre seasons.

I didn’t attend the Gathering but based on what I’ve heard and read, Muschamp seemed not only surprised but pleased with the response of the fans following his first season (7-6) as head football coach.

What I find noteworthy and a bit worrisome for Gator Nation is that the crowd was estimated to be “roughly 350 fans.” Indeed, the UF faithful do remain as avid as ever, but Gator Nation is shrinking. Past Jacksonville Gator Gatherings have attracted nearly four times as many fans as showed up this week.

It’s no surprise that losing has hurt enthusiasm and shrunk the fan base. But are there other reasons?

Once, Gator football was the undisputed biggest star in Jacksonville’s sport’s galaxy. Many newcomers to our growing city jumped on the Gator bandwagon. The Gators were THE sport’s team. Becoming a Gator was the cool thing to do. It was the smart thing to do from a business standpoint. Now many of those newcomers adopt the Jaguars.

That’s even truer among young fans. They are turning to the Jaguars and the NFL – as well as other sports. (Think X Games if you have any idea what X Games are.) I know it has only been two years since the Gators won a national championship but two years is a long, long time for a kid. Meanwhile, members of Gator Nation are growing older and literally dying.

The football Gators, once the unquestioned most popular sports topic in our town, have fallen below the Jaguars. And while the Gators remain a clear No. 2, they are losing ground.

Last season saw empty seats at Florida Field. The school’s ticket box office was actually open on some game days. Obviously TV has hurt attendance, particularly for some older Gator fans. Still, I remember 1979 when Florida went 0-10-1 and still packed Florida Field for nearly every game. Simply put, the Gators aren’t growing as many new fans as they once did.

I’m not suggesting Gator football is in danger of becoming an afterthought in the foreseeable future. I can’t imagine the Gators not being one of the biggest sport’s stories in our city. Certainly the fan base will enjoy a growth spurt if Muschamp is successful in returning the Gators to elite status. But concerns remain.

Am I making too much of one night? That’s possible. But other storied college programs have suffered in the wake losing and the popularity of NFL. Every decline has a start. Losing and the NFL simple accelerate the trend.


  1. DeNiro says:

    If the Jaguars were the clear number one, wouldn’t they sell out games often, and wouldn’t UF struggle to sell out the Florida/Georgia game? UF has only failed to sell out a game I think twice in the last 30 years maybe. And it wasn’t by much.

    Bad attendance for a UF game is 88,000.

    88,000 would be DREAM attendance for the Jaguars. There is just a huge difference in the fan passion of the two.

  2. Richard Sherman says:

    It would be a good idea not to start the events at 5:30 on a weekday.

  3. jags fan says:

    if the gator fanbase was just strictly from the First Coast area, as the Jaguar fan base is, they would not fill 88,000 every Saturday. Not even close.

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