In its first season in the Colonial Athletic Association, Monmouth has upped its game on the field in one of the top FCS conferences, having stockpiled enough talent to be competitive right away.
What Monmouth still needs is a 12th man.
When the Hawks went on the road and upset Villanova two Saturdays ago, it was in front of a sellout crowd of 12,000. For their late-season trip to No. 6 Delaware, the hostile crowd is expected to approach 15,000. You need only look at their first CAA game, a season-opening loss at New Hampshire, when 8,703 showed up.
Which brings us to Saturday afternoon’s festivities at Kessler Stadium, when Monmouth hosts its first CAA game, taking on Albany at 1 p.m.
You see where this is going, right?
Time to fill the seats
This team deserves support. They play an exciting brand of football, are in the CAA hunt and pushing for a spot in the FCS Playoffs, and four of their final six regular season games are at home, including a clash with nationally ranked Rhode Island on Oct. 22.
Kessler Stadium’s capacity, now north for 4,500 with the new end zone grandstands, is smaller than every other CAA facility. But there were just 2,589 at the last home game, and not many more for the home opener against Fordham.
A big, raucous crowd helps level the playing field with their CAA rivals. And it has to start against Albany, by any estimation the most important rival Monmouth’s had in 30 seasons of football, dating back to their Northeast Conference days right up to the Hawks’ overtime win in West Long Branch in 2019, when both teams ended up advancing in the national tournament.
It’s not like the place hasn’t been rocking before. Last season there were 4,235 there for the home opener against Holy Cross. Even before Kessler was renovated in 2017, there were 4,032 in the old grandstand for the 2006 Gridiron Bowl against San Diego.
Hampton, the other CAA newcomer, averaged 7,088 last year playing in the MEAC.
This very well might be Monmouth’s most talented team ever, and it may end up as its most accomplished. They have some elite talent, particularly on offense. And they’re no longer playing in the Big South, with the likes of North Alabama and Gardner-Webb replaced by a strong collection of regional rivals.
The new end zone grandstand was filled with students against Fordham, and that must become a weekly ritual in the fall. And if you like football, why not go see a really good college game at the Jersey Shore? And supporting a team that’s shown it deserves more love than it’s getting.
CAA average attendance 2021
New Hampshire 11,576
William & Mary 7,511
Stony Brook 6,777
Rhode Island 4,892
# Big South
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Monmouth football: Fans need to show up as CAA heats up