If you thought the bookstores were crowded this week, just wait until you see the UCSB men’s soccer team’s bandwagon.
On Friday night, somewhere around 7 p.m., thousands of Gaucho fans were piling into Harder Stadium – 2,334 to be exact.
UCSB has an apathy problem?
This is news to me.
Sitting atop the press booth exactly a year ago watching Neil Jones dismantle Riverside with three goals, en route to a 3-0 victory, I thought maybe it was so. A porous crowd of 1,039 watched Jones’ offensive display – a hell of a way to welcome a team back that just earned an unprecedented #1 national ranking.
Well, not really.
One could make the argument that this particular game was on a night at the beginning of the year when friends were rekindling friendships from the spring before and the freshmen were still trying to get settled in and find out where that Del Playa street was at.
But during the crux of their season, only 893 students settled in to watch a 4-3 thrilling overtime victory on a Wednesday night against Fullerton. This apathy, by the way, was well documented by former SI.com blogger – and former Nexus Sports Editor – Josh Elliott, much to the chagrin of much of the Gaucho faithful.
It took some time last year, but the residue from last year’s – insert unprintable words here – penalty kick loss to Indiana in the NCAA National Championship is left over, and now fans are piling into the stands in epic proportions.
Let’s look at this figure: 2,334.
This is more than double the amount of fans that showed up to watch Santa Barbara dump Northridge 2-1 to win the Big West Championship (1,110 fans). This number is eclipsed, barely, by the amount of fans to come and watch the Gauchos second round 2-1 overtime victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2,520).
This writer is convinced that the seed was planted once the Gauchos went across the country and trounced UNC-Greensborough in the Sweet 16. Soccer fever swept over the Gaucho nation.
A record 11,214 fans showed up to watch UCSB shoot their way into the Men’s College Cup with a 4-1 annihilation of Virginia Commonwealth, sending Isla Vista into bedlam. That, and we stole a goalpost. That was fun.
So how am I convinced that this overwhelming amount of support will carry over throughout the year?
Because 2,334 fans piled into Harder Stadium to watch the Gauchos play Alabama A&M.
In my best Pedro Martinez voice: “Who is Alabama A&M?”
I didn’t even know they had a team. Hell, I can’t even tell you the capital of Alabama off the top of my head. So I can only imagine the debauchery that will go down at Harder when rivals Northridge or Irvine drop into town and try their luck against the Gauchos.
All I have to say is – it’s about time.
Sean Swaby is the Daily Nexus Sports Editor.