When it comes to the FCS playoffs, the term "playoff atmosphere" often means missing fans and empty seats.
The Citadel is hoping to buck that trend when the No. 6-seeded Bulldogs host Wofford for a second-round game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
A search of attendance figures for last weekend's first-round games showed that crowds at eight host schools were down an average of 59.8 percent from the season average. Wofford, for example, drew 2,605 fans for its 15-14 win over Palmetto State rival Charleston Southern, a 65.8 percent decrease from its season average of 7,625 fans.
New Hampshire had the biggest drop-off, with 2,240 fans on hand for a 64-21 win over Lehigh, a 76.7 percent slide from its season average of 9,630. Chattanooga saw the smallest decrease; yet the Mocs' crowd of 5,238 fans still was down 41.1 percent from their season average of 8,886 fans. Playoff games are played at on-campus sites until the Jan. 7 title game in Frisco, Texas.
Citadel coach Brent Thompson is hoping for something different for Saturday's game, the Bulldogs' first home playoff game since 1992.
"I think our fans will turn out," Citadel coach Brent Thompson said Sunday. "We were disappointed we didn't get a home game last year in the playoffs, but we had a good showing at Coastal Carolina and then at Charleston Southern.
"I think we can do well and get a number higher than the games we saw on Saturday."
Citadel fans helped Coastal Carolina draw 6,751 fans for the Bulldogs' 41-38 playoff win last year, the third-best crowd of eight first-round games. A Charleston Southern record of 8,451 fans packed CSU Stadium to see the Bucs knock off the Bulldogs, 14-6, in the second round last season.
The Citadel averaged 13,648 fans for four home games this season, a figure that ranks 17th among 124 FCS schools in 2016, and first among Southern Conference members. (A fifth "home" game was played at North Greenville due to Hurricane Matthew).
Citadel fans, including some 500 knobs, packed the visitors' side at Wofford for the Bulldogs' 24-21 overtime win at Gibbs Stadium on Oct. 22, part of a season-high crowd of 11,102 for the Terriers.
The Corps of Cadets will be at Saturday's game, a school official said Monday.
"We had a great crowd for the game at Wofford," Thompson said. "I think this should be a well-attended game. Our ticket sales are going well, and the Corps of Cadets should help out."
For The Citadel's two home playoff games in 1992, the Bulldogs drew 12,300 fans for a 44-0 win over North Carolina A&T, and 13,021 for a 42-17 loss to Youngstown State.
There are several reasons FCS playoff attendance lags behind regular-season crowds. Fans have only a couple of weeks' notice to change their holiday season schedules for playoff games; season-ticket plans do not include playoff games; and there are no complementary or discount tickets for playoff games.
The NCAA requires that tickets for games starting in the playoffs' second round are priced no lower than the host schools' regular-season tickets. The Citadel is charging $15 for general admission tickets and $30 for reserved seats for Saturday's game, with student GA seats priced at $12 and top-tier tickets at $75.
As a top-eight seed, The Citadel was able to secure a second-round home game with a minimum financial guarantee of $40,000 to the NCAA. A quarterfinal game requires a bid of $50,000 for a seeded team, and a semifinal game would cost $60,000 for a seed.
After The Citadel's expenses are paid, all revenue from Saturday's game goes to the NCAA, Citadel athletic director Jim Senter said.
The NCAA pays expenses for a traveling party of up to 130 people (60 players) for visiting teams, with a per diem of $150. For the championship game, the traveling party is 145 people, including 70 players.