Struggling with spirit: Flagler wrestles with a small athletic fan base

By Jared Talbot |

Every college has an identity. Whether it’s the party school, the Ivy League school, the big school, the in-the-middle-of-nowhere school or for Flagler College, the beautiful liberal arts school. The list doesn’t stop there with thousands of schools out there, all with characteristics that make them unique.

Not all colleges have sports, but a majority do. In fact, NCAA regulates sports for 460,000 student athletes at 1,281 institutions across the U.S. The point is, people love sports in this country and when it comes to the big Division 1 colleges, bringing in a crowd has never been an issue.

Yet for a college like Flagler College with approximately 2,702 students, how can you bring in fans to the sporting events? The truth is, this is something Flagler, as well as hundreds of small colleges, have struggled with for years. You can’t expect to fill a stadium every game for every sport, especially with only a couple thousand students. For some colleges like Flagler College, a home field advantage is hardly that.

Michael Kelly, a senior and sports management major at Flagler College, spent the spring of his junior year being an assistant for the baseball team. He defined his role as “doing a little bit of everything to help the team out.” From helping the players prepare during practices to helping with the announcements from the booth, he was able to get a different perspective on what home games are like for the Flagler College baseball team.

“One of our games last year, it felt like an away game yet we were home,” Kelly said. “The away crowd was more into it than our own and that’s hard to see.”

After talking to Kelly more about this, I asked him why he thought Flagler doesn’t bring in more fans to the baseball games.

“I think it has a lot to do with the fact that this is a small Liberal Arts college,” Kelly said. ‘This college doesn’t really scream sports. Going into it, you should know it’s not a big sports college.”

Kelly brings up a very good point. The trouble with bringing in crowds to sporting events at a smaller college is that this is not the type of school to attract the people who are into sports. With hundreds of smaller colleges across the nation struggling with bringing in crowds, they all have similar characteristics. Whether it’s the size, location or the type of school, it’s hard to attract sports fans when a school is focused more towards the arts and so on.

Michael is not the only one who notices this problem at Flagler though. Dylan Jones is going into his senior season for the Flagler College baseball team after having a productive three years. After seeing the school spirit firsthand, Jones thinks it could use some work.

“I think the school spirit isn’t terrible, but people don’t really go to sporting events,” Jones said. “People love Flagler and wear Flagler gear, but that doesn’t seem to translate to athletics.”

Now that’s another discussion entirely. When the school itself has school spirit but students aren’t interested in sports, where do you go from there? Again this goes back to the type of school it is. Speaking on the type of students who go here, Dylan said, “A lot of them are surfers or art students and have little desire to go to a game.”

Flagler College has former basketball players playing oversees, baseball players getting drafted to the Major leagues and great sports teams year in and year out. The talent continues to show yet the fans do not. What will it take it fix this problem?

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