Glenn Addison checked his email one day last week only to find “it had blown up” with messages from several hundred Citadel football supporters.
“They were unanimous in that they’d like the issue to be considered,” said Addison, a member of The Citadel’s Board of Visitors and chairman of the board’s athletics committee.
The issue prompting the messages flooding Addison’s inbox — and those of other Citadel officials — is the location of the Corps of Cadets at Bulldog football games at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
Some Citadel fans are waging a campaign to bring the cadets back to the “home side” of Johnson Hagood Stadium. Since 2008, when the renovated Johnson Hagood opened, the cadets and school band have been seated on the “visitors” side of the 21,000-seat stadium, behind the visiting team’s bench.
Before Johnson Hagood was renovated, the Corps was seated on the home (or west) side at one end of the stadium.
“There are multiple reasons why the Corps was moved to the other side,” Addison said. “They were tied to the marketing of the stadium with permanent seat licenses and other concerns.”
But with the hiring of new coach Mike Houston, some Citadel supporters are seizing the moment to try to bring the Corps back to the home side, arguing that it would energize the game-day atmosphere at Johnson Hagood.
And they are being heard, Addison said.
“Any time you have a large number of alumni voicing concern over something, you have to take a look at it and investigate it,” he said. “It will be discussed and the people that need to will look into it. It will be looked at and given a lot of attention to see if it’s feasible, and to see if it’s the right thing to do and doesn’t impact the other things we’ve done.”
Supporters of the proposed move argue that cadets will feel more a part of the game on the home side than on the visitors’ side, where they are removed from the team and have to stare into the sun during day games. The move also would help bridge the perceived disconnect between the Corps and the football team, they say.
Those supporters also seem to have Southern Conference rules on their side. SoCon administrative regulations say:
“Bands will not be seated in the arena/stadium quadrant which includes the visiting team bench.”
“Areas behind the visiting team bench shall be reserved for visiting fans … In no case may the home team’s fans, student or band sections be located immediately behind the visiting team’s bench.”
Geoff Cabe, the SoCon’s senior associate commissioner, said those rules are aimed chiefly at basketball. He said the league’s football policy calls for a “buffer section” of visiting team seats or empty space behind visiting team benches. More specific rules are being discussed, he said.
But Cabe also said removing the Corps of Cadets from behind the visiting team bench at Johnson Hagood would meet the “spirit” of SoCon rules.
“Moving all students and official groups from the visiting side to the home side would absolutely meet the spirit of the rules,” he said.
Whatever the decision, Addison said he’s encouraged by the show of interest from Citadel fans.
“The alumni are very passionate about football and their cadets,” he said. “With a new coach coming in, a lot of them see a great chance to engage. I’m very optimistic that we have a solid group of alums and that they are excited about making things better, whatever we do.”