I've been attending football games at WKU since 1965 except for the years 1984 to 2016 when I lived in Germany. I was able see several games during those years but also viewed online as that facility became more and more possible with time.
Topper football is something I grew up with because my Dad was an Ex-Jock from the famed "1952 Refrigerator Bowl" Squad, the first to win a Bowl game at WKU, and because he worked on The Hill as a professor. So, I know a lot of Topper history, but not all of it.
I played only 2 years of organized football in Junior High School, which is the same as saying I never played, but I understand the game pretty well. My father was a football coach during my 1st 5 years of life, so basically I was born with a football in my hands. Today, many of the college kids playing today have been playing since they were just little tikes. So they are all well familiar with the game at a much higher level than I am.
To my way of thinking, all sports are a game of deception. All sports have tactics that are comparable to military tactics. Although a military force that has bigger, faster, and more powerful resources has a definite advantage in battle or war, it is really how those assets are used that makes all of the difference.
So when I watch football, yes I am impressed with the talent, speed, and strength of the players but what I really look for is the tactical scheme I see being used by the coaching staff to make best use of their assets.
The element of deception, surprise, and adaptability are in my view what football is all about, plus you can only do as much with your assets as they are capable of doing. In other words, you can't have a spread offense if your quarterback can't throw the ball downfield. You have to match your tactics to the team you have to work with.
The biggest mistake I see being made by coaches is that they fall in love with a system and force that system on players who sometimes aren't capable of executing that system. To diffuse this situation it is necessary that a scheme has options built into it so that the weaknesses are compensated for.
If you are Alabama you can have a standard plow the row tactic and win, because you have the biggest, fastest, strongest players in the country and you have them 3 deep.
If you consider teams in "Midmajorland" that is not going to work. So, the most successful teams in Midmajorland are those teams that use a lot of options to create confusion for the opposition defense in order to succeed. It also requires that you have players that understand the concept and can execute it.
WKU football hit the jackpot when it brought Petrino to be the coach. In one year he completely changed the culture of WKU Football regardless of what anyone says. He also had some good pieces given to him as well like Doughty, Andrews, Allen, Higbee, Henry etc. Having brought Brohm with him, we had two good QB coaches and also creative minds at the helm of the offense that went on to have the most successful seasons in Topper history. Taggart, Petrino, and Brohm all recruited well for the Tops and we enjoyed some amazing football in those years.
But it is the scheme that made the teams. Especially Brohm worked out of the idea that deception is the way to success and accurate QBs with real arms and a good head to run it.
Let it be said that I hate running QBs in a passing offense. In my mind the QB has to have two things: A big accurate arm and a good brain that can lead. Yes, a QB should be able to run, after all they are all 18 - 22 years old, but if their arm is short then to me they aren't a QB.
Now, if you choose to run a running offense, ala WKU in the Harbaugh years or like Army and Navy, then this doesn't necessarily have to be the case, you can have a running QB that can pass some as well. Pigrome would have worked great in an option offense, but he isn't a pocket passer, for one, he can't see over the offensive and defensive lineman, and secondly he doesn't plant his feet well and has no power downfield and is not great in the accurate category.
In today's game, the Option offense can't keep up with the spread and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the defense doesn't get to practice against a spread offense.
I was very impressed this year with Coastal Carolina's offense. It was a deceptive, well schemed offense that had a QB who could throw and run, but also was above all very "Sharp" mentally. They had multiple options on every play, where they had two options in the back field other than the QB, plus they spread the field. They did a lot of play action out of that and were able to maneuver well because of their quickness and speed. They weren't a big team, but they were a smart team that executed well. Liberty was much like Coastal, but was bigger and had an excellent QB as well. There too the coach's scheme was well designed.
I fully expected the Tops to do this in the Helton era, but his scheme hasn't been good and his choice of QBs has been questionable. Now, the QB in 2019 was good mostly because he was a smart, experienced QB that knew who he was. I think we would have done better with Duncan, but they ran him on too many plays and he got hurt, thus eliminating the downfield throws.
Don't get me wrong, there were some good things about the Tops football team this year, but the offense wasn't one of them. The defense did enough to put WKU in a position to win every game, but the offense failed to score multiple times inside the 5 yard line, and that is just inexcusable.
But with the Coronavirus, the obvious dive in Ticket Sales, the poor performance of the offense this year, and questionable ability to recruit compelling players, the Topper Football program is in a very fragile state. While WKU does as well as it can to support it's Athletics Programs, it has limited financial resources. One would have to assume that the program has serious issues on the budget side of things.
WKU is south central Kentucky's number one employer and number one economic influencer. The football and basketball programs at WKU can bring a lot of attention to the region by being competitive in sports. There is no other marketing tool as powerful as WKU football and basketball in south central Kentucky except for Corvettes and Caves. Bowling Green is fortunate to have such a beautiful and quality university in the center of it giving it an entire community of youth and intelligence to fuel its cultural basis. This makes BG and the entire area very attractive to industries looking to locate, as well as the well positioned transportation capabilities it has and a good public education facilities.
Bowling Green, Warren County, and all of the neighboring counties need to support WKU athletics by attending them in the future and helping out right now to maintain the highest standard possible.
Attendance at WKU is not any different than at other schools of like size around the country. It has been waning in recent years much of it due to the other offerings available on the media.
The biggest example of how universities are compensating for the reduced attendance revenues is building the corporate involvement of support. When WKU placed the Red Towel Club seating at courtside and the Suites up in the rafters, not only did that reduce attendance capacity and relegate the students to the end zones, but it also contributes to lower attendance at games because those "supporters" buy tickets as tax deductions and then don't attend, leaving empty seats at court level. Not only that, it takes the energy of the student section out of the games. If you must have a Red Towel section, let it be on the side of the stadium that cameras never see and let the students sections be courtside in view of the cameras, so at least it looks as if there is a student body. No doubt does the revenue created from the sale of corporate and donor tickets make more money for the program, but it also loses a lot in game time atmosphere. If it wasn't for the band, there wouldn't be any atmosphere and I haven't seen a cheerleader routine in years at a time out because they are having some sort of sponsored ice cream eating contest.
Culturally, there is little tie between the team, the cheerleaders, the band, and the audience. You don't get the feel that they even acknowledge the other's existence. You don't get the feel of college any more. That needs to return.
There are areas that WKU can improve on in terms of fans getting to and from the games. Back in the day when Diddle's average attendance was well above 10,000 and honestly way better attendance at football games, yes there was chaos before and after, but it flowed. Today, it is marshalled by a confusing system of parking and access routes which make no sense and is ultimately worse than the problem itself and on top of that you have rude police making it hard for anyone to get anywhere. Cutting off the Avenue of Champions to traffic is just stupid, period, end of discussion. Yes I get the safety thing, but I never remember there being a problem with it.
Right now, it is as if WKU doesn't want big crowds to come to it. It isn't a very welcoming experience to be honest. Why they removed the ramps in front of Diddle I'll never understand, now everyone has to come and go through the first floor doors, which they never were meant for. The Parking Structure 2 is poorly designed for events, and they have removed one exit from PS 1 making it also a nightmare, especially considering they force everyone to turn right, and go over The Hill instead of simply routing out onto University Ave going Northeast.
In my view, the "Spirit" at WKU isn't what it should be. A lot of this is caused by the One and Done "It's all about ME" mentality with coaching changes, recruiting portals, and climbing the ladder as fast as possible.
Maybe it is just my jaded view right now, but clearly, the atmosphere at games and in the student section is not what it was years ago and if that doesn't change, I don't see how Topper athletics can continue to grow.
Let me just say in closing that this article is about the Athletics at WKU, this doesn't mean that it is more or less important than cultural or educational considerations. It isn't. But, due to the fact that these two programs, Football and Basketball are huge marketing tools for WKU, Bowling Green, and the South Central Kentucky region, I feel it is a very important part of the stature of this area.