The Lumberjacks have struggled to find a great season in football considering their last conference championship appearance was in 2003. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Flagstaff has grown from 66,145 in 2010 to 73,964 in 2019. However, attendance at NAU football games hasn’t seemed to increase throughout the years.
The goal for the team is to get the city excited about coming to games again. Football head coach Chris Ball seeks to change the culture of the team and is trying to get Flagstaff to notice.
Ball came into a new coaching position and was excited to see what the fans could bring. Attendance of the first game is typically higher because of the Running of the Freshmen tradition, but ticket sales were not as good as last year’s opening game.
According to the box score on the NAU football website, attendance for the game against the Bears only reached 6,891, while last year’s opening game against the Eastern Washington Eagles had an attendance of 8,938.
Attendance for the second home game of last season went down tremendously compared to the first game. The box score calculated 5,832 total tickets sold. The highest attendance of 2018 was the game against Weber State University, with about 10,000 tickets sold.
NAU’s senior night last season had the lowest attendance with only 4,306 tickets sold. The seniors had to leave with the least amount of fans of any game.
Ball has involved his players in the community by making sandbags after the wildfire this summer. He is already changing the lives of these young men and will continue to help them grow — a fact that should help drive sales up.
The Lumberjacks were able to start the season on the right foot by winning their first home game against the Missouri State Bears 37-23. In last year’s matchup against the Bears, the Lumberjacks lost 40-8.
Their win against the Bears was crucial because the Lumberjacks are able to start the season 1-1 after facing the highest ranked team they will play this year. After losing to UA 65-41 Sept. 7, the Lumberjacks will be able to play for a winning record when they go up against Western New Mexico University Sept. 14.
The players love the fans and want them to come out and support the team. It means the world to them to see those seats filled. Sophomore wide receiver Brandon Porter said the game against the Bears was the best game of his career, with six catches, 140 total yards and two touchdowns. He was excited to see the fans and feel the love they gave the team.
“The fans are great,” Porter said. “We have the support of the staff, which is great, and the support of the boosters helping us out.”
Coming out of their second game, the Lumberjacks will have a chance to improve over the next couple of weeks and prepare for conference play.
Senior quarterback Case Cookus is striving to lead the team to a winning season after his last season was cut short due to collerbone injuries he sustained in the second game. He threw for 3,413 yards in 2017 with 22 total touchdowns.
A college town that loves and supports their team can become something amazing. This year is the year the Lumberjacks are looking to turn things around.
Ball has been a part of large programs, and is used to seeing seats sold out and large crowds cheering on the team. He has proven to be successful in his coaching career at schools such as ASU and coaching NFL safety Damarious Randall who plays for the Cleveland Browns.
Through his coaching career, Ball has prioritized his fans and loves that he is able to share the experiences with his players.
“We just need to continue to get more people there — fill up those seats,” Ball said.
Having a stadium with supportive fans can bring people together and can make them enjoy the city more. It’s a way to connect to the city and have everyone in the town cheering for the same team.
Ball is determined to fill up those stadium seats and let the Big Sky Conference, as well as the Flagstaff community, know who the Lumberjacks are this year.