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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Cougar soccer looks to draw more fans

While college football and basketball continue to be the cash cows for most schools, drawing national TV audiences and becoming the focal point of most school sports discussions, other sports tend to fall by the wayside.

However, with the introduction of ESPNU, and the Internet gradually making the world a smaller place, those forgotten sports are starting to find their niche in the sports scene.

Enter UH Soccer. The team brought in a total of 4,191 fans last year in its ten game home season.

While this doesn’t sound too impressive at first glance, it was a team record for the fledgling program that began playing just nine years ago.

Last season’s home opener against Louisiana-Lafayette brought the third highest home attendance that season at 510, and the last home game against Rice brought in the highest attendance that season at 969.

The team is running a promotion at every home game this year with the main attraction being Sweepstakes Fridays.

On Sweepstakes Fridays, fans can enter a raffle to win a free iPod Shuffle.

At the Nov. 2 home game against UTEP, fans who have entered any of the previous Sweepstake Fridays drawings are eligible to register for a Sony PSP drawing.

The key to drawing a consistent amount of fans isn’t in any number of giveaways, even though it’s in building a strong student following.

"We’ve really worked hard to build a grassroots following on campus," Assistant Athletic Director James Nicas said.

Nicas also said their goal would be to have a supportive fan base as big as some of the more prominent sports.

"We want a great student atmosphere with people jumping up and down all game. Like with the football team, constant noise and a ton of cheering."

Still, Nicas remains realistic and realizes that it’s not an easy sell and that there are many obstacles facing the team.

"The truth of the matter is that Houston sports fans have a ton of options, we’re just trying to put together something that is the best bang for the buck, something that students and young girls who are in to soccer can come and see at a very affordable price," Nicas said. "Obviously it would help if we were a winning team, but we’re on the right track."

The first test for the team will be this Friday’s match with third-ranked UCLA, which the department has deemed "Pack The House" night, with $2 tickets available to all fans in the hopes of breaking the team’s attendance record.

Head coach Susan Bush said it would take as many rowdy Cougar fans as possible Friday night to make UCLA feel uncomfortable.

In addition to the $2 tickets, the first 50 UH students will receive a free UH Soccer T-shirt.

The promotions and the fan club should attract an audience, and UCLA will probably draw enough to break the attendance record. The real key, however, will be how the Cougars do on the field. Promotions and discounts can draw people to the games, but winning is what keeps them coming back.

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