Anders Said It: Football Deserves More Attention


Quinn Burns/Villanovan Photography

Through eight games, Villanova football has a 5-3 record coming off a win over Hampton.

Anders Pryor, Sports Columnist

The Villanova Wildcats Football team gave Hampton a not-so-welcoming welcome to the CAA with a 24-10 victory over the Pirates to improve Villanova to 5-3 on the season. This was a step down from last year when the ‘Cats were 7-1 after eight games, and you can feel the energy settling down around campus. Villanova’s students only really give their football team the enthusiasm it deserves if it’s doing well, not just based on love for the home team.

The scene at Villanova Stadium felt off on Saturday. There were times when the Hampton visiting crowd was louder and more passionate than the Villanova student section – at least what was left of it after halftime. The celebrations for the touchdowns felt oddly quiet for Halloweekend, even during a Connor Watkins 75-yard touchdown run.

“There’s room for improvement,” a senior who was in the student section said. “I would like to see more fan participation for the games too, because after last weekend as well, there were times when we were outnumbered by the away team.”

Villanova is a “sports school.” It doesn’t take much effort to see that. People know this school as a “basketball” school. The men’s and women’s teams are the lifeblood of the campus. The student body does well when they do. But how many of you reading this have been asked “Is Villanova D-I in football?” or even “Does Villanova have football?” Usually, that question is followed by a “yes” with a weird look on your face or a confusing conversation about what FCS is.

Last year, Villanova had its best football season since its 2009 National Championship year, and everyone was talking about it very seriously, looking ahead to each matchup. The Wildcats’ first CAA title since the 2012 playoff run, which included a first round bye and a tight win over Holy Cross in the second round, got everyone excited, but it was followed by a loss to South Dakota State that ended the season. 

Yet, even when football was at its peak, the sports conversations around campus were often centered around the potential success of the basketball team or basketball games that hadn’t even happened yet. Football’s success was real and right in front of everyone and still felt second in line. The support for it is underwhelming, and students who do invest in it are taking notice of it for both students and the school itself. 

“The school administration could do more to support the football program,” said another senior who was at the game. “Last year was definitely a better year both in terms of on-field success as well as school support. I think one of the best things they did was adding the postseason double lottery to make sure the stands were full. But there are times when football has taken the backseat to basketball, and then the school wonders why fans don’t come to the games.”

Can Villanova ever be a “football school,” even when its football team is playing at its best? Obviously, it’s not realistic to ask Villanova to be Penn State where people camp overnight. But even other FCS programs like North Dakota State, rival Delaware or defending champion Sam Houston State are viewed as “football schools” to as much of an extent as they can be. It doesn’t look like Villanova can reach that point. 

At any “sports school,” football often comes first in line. Even at many “basketball schools,” like Kansas and Duke, football still draws a lot of attention. The gap between basketball and football for the Wildcats is extensive, and much of that is on the students. Even with a decent record, football still finds itself in “point grab” territory for students looking to boost their odds for basketball games. Real “sports schools” give their attention to the biggest sport in collegiate athletics regardless of how they do. 

It’s going to take a collective and active effort from the administration, athletic department, student body and fans to give Villanova football the credit it deserves. If Villanova is able to win out and make the playoffs, hopefully there will be a step up in firing up the campus into a football spirit the same way it does for basketball. The success of basketball shows the community knows how to do it whether the team does well or not. Credit is due for the football team, and it should be given to them.