Why Is UVA Football Disenfranchising Its Fans?

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Why Is UVA Football Disenfranchising Its Fans?

Note: Since publishing this article the story has carried over to several large newspapers including the Richmond Times Dispatch and the Washington Post.  You can also see articles here and here. 

It's not easy being a Virginia Cavalier football fan lately.

Ever since Colin Cowherd's infamous rant about Cavalier fans, the University seems to be doing everything in their power to help promote, instead of counteract, this negative stereotype of the "wine and cheese" crowd.

First, UVA officials moved toward the wallets of their fans, restructuring the ticketing system so that allegiance was negated in favor of money.  The least you can spend for premiere seats in 2008 is a gift of over $6,000.

This means that the upper crust will get front row seats this upcoming season to sit on their hands and discuss their stock portfolios rather than the actual game being played.

Meanwhile, the die-hard fans who used to occupy those seats for years are being relocated.  They are being placed in the back of Scott Stadium simply because they cannot donate the ridiculous sums being asked for by University officials to "prove" their loyalty.

That caused enough controversy to begin with—but that was apparently just the tipping point.

Now Virginia has really lost its mind with this new policy:

"All banners, signs and flags are prohibited in Scott Stadium."

Apparently the first Amendment no longer applies at Mr. Jefferson's University.

Now I fully understand that signs should be banned if they are lewd or derogatory, but signs are an essential part of a college football atmosphere. 

Clever signs can rally a crowd.  They make people feel like part of the action, and they show a commitment to a program that schools should showcase, not hide away in fear.

This new policy may have stemmed from an incident last year involving a student who expressed his desire to see head coach Al Groh fired after the poor start to the season.

If so, this is cowardly and pathetic, something that Virginia officials should be ashamed of as opposed to embracing.

News flash, Virginia big wigs: Just because people don't write it on a sign does not mean the anger or frustration will go away.

The Cavalier hierarchy has their priorities poorly aligned.

Virginia athletics center their programs on the slogan of "Uncompromised Excellence," and that involves having an exuberant and passionate fan base.

The best example of this spirit that I can think of is Virginia's game against ODU in the CBI tournament last year.

The CBI is a complete and utter joke.  Everyone knows that, and it is why some teams ignored the invite entirely.

Yet out of loyalty to Sean Singletary, thousands of fans showed up to watch one of the all-time Cavaliers play his final games for Virginia. 

These were the true die-hard fans that would actually spend money to see a meaningless game.  As a result, Virginia had no real choice but to open up the floor and let fans who had bought season tickets in the nosebleeds have their chance to sit near center court.

Well, I can tell you from my two years being at JPJA and covering games that the crowd was louder at half capacity at that one game than 90 percent of the games where the crowd was twice the size.

The result: an improbable comeback that helped provide another Kodak moment for Sean Singletary, as the Cavaliers erased a two-possession deficit in the final minute.

Read the signs, Virginia staff: Do not bite the hand that feeds you.

Big donors may be loyal to you during the good times, but it is the true fan that will stick with a team through the rough patches.

However, don't expect them to stick with a program that has shown it cares less about the fans than making a profit and stifling free expression.

Colleges are supposed to be a safe place to express opinion.  I hope UVA will remember that.

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