Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Attention on Attendance; Fan Interest Could Have Far-Reaching Effects

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Attention on Attendance; Fan Interest Could Have Far-Reaching Effects

Article excerpt

Byline: Vito Stellino, Times-Union sports writer

The only number that really counts in an NFL game is the final score.

Yet when the Jaguars host the Tennessee Titans today at Alltel Stadium in the final home game of a frustrating season, another number will get almost as much scrutiny: the attendance.

With the Jaguars' first blackout of the season one question is whether the game will draw more fans than the 46,267 who attended the Cleveland game two weeks ago. That was the second-smallest crowd in Jaguars' history.

Last year, in the 15th game at home, the Jaguars came in 6-8 and drew 59,536 fans for the game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Titans might be a better draw because they're an AFC South rival. Tennessee cornerback Samari Rolle added some spice to the rivalry with a hit that knocked Mark Brunell out in their first meeting on Oct. 13. The Titans won that game 23-14.

Including premium seats, the Jaguars have sold in the neighborhood of 60,000 tickets for the game.

It's uncertain if owner Wayne Weaver will consider fan interest when he decides whether to make major changes in the offseason.

Coach Tom Coughlin has continued his typical focus on simply preparing for the next game -- despite the Web sites calling for him to be retained or be fired and the debate about what it will take to get more fans to attend Jaguars games. The team will begin a major marketing campaign next month.

"Winning is the No. 1 thing, I think," Coughlin said. "I'm still old-school and I do believe the harder you work, the better your opportunities are to win. And [when] the opportunities to win [are] better, the fans will come out.

"I've been aware of this blackout situation, and regardless of how I personally feel about it, it's not going to change it."

Coughlin said he hasn't considered whether his future with the Jaguars is tied to their attendance figures.

"I don't think that will be a part of the decision," he said.

Coughlin declined to comment on what factors would play into whether he remains the Jaguars' coach.

"If you'd like to talk about Tennessee or whatever, I'd be glad to talk about it," Coughlin said. "I'm not going to talk about that situation [his future]. Quite frankly, we're trying as hard as we can to play good, solid football right now."

Weaver hasn't been talking about the coaching situation either. He expressed support for Coughlin two weeks ago, but he hasn't committed to bringing him back for next year and said he wouldn't provide weekly updates.

When Weaver addressed the players on Dec. 11, after the Jaguars lost 21-20 to Cleveland on a Hail Mary pass, he didn't mention the coaching situation.

"[Weaver's] message was straightforward and true, and it was, 'Put that Cleveland game behind us, there's nothing you can do about it now. …

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