Who are the Pilot fans?

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Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by UPSoccerFanatic on Sun Feb 22, 2009 6:46 pm

I've received a suggestion that the reasons the Pilots women have such good attendance is that Portland doesn't have pointy ball, so alums best alternative is soccer. In other words, the season-ticket holder fans mostly are alums who would be football fans, rather than soccer fans, if Portland had football.

Most of the season ticket holders I know are not alums, but that may be just the ones I know. Does anyone know what the season ticket holder demographics are? Or whether the Athletic Department tracks fan demographics?

It would be really interesting to know. A lot of people say it would be impossible to recreate a fan base like the Pilots women have because the Pilots women are in a unique situation. I'd like to get a sense of whether that's really true.

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by karanicole on Sun Feb 22, 2009 8:07 pm

I think Portland has a really different fan base. I became a fan back in the Clive Charles days when I found it so rare to see a person of color coaching. As a black player, there weren't too many examples in the women's game of people of color being involved, AND so knowledgeable...I started paying attention whenever Portland was broadcasted and fell in love with the spirit of the team. My first trip to the Pacific NW was in November of 2006 and while I thought I would be able to see Portland in action, they were sent away for a first round playoff game!! I have never been so disappointed...Anyhoo, I think there are a lot of different aspects that set Portland soccer apart from what I experience while watching other teams. It's a love of the game.

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by DaTruRochin on Sun Feb 22, 2009 8:37 pm

I had a long explanation that I typed out, but lost it somehow... I'm doing a list instead...

1. Portland as a city loves soccer, high participation rates young to old
2. No football, no fall competition (even aside from the school, PSU football is really the only in town college entertainment in town in the fall... and they haven't exactly been very good in a long while)
3. Basketball has not been consistently successful. A school UP's size would normally flock to men's basketball, but the lack of success really stymies alumni support.
4. Clive Charles, great man, great coach... GREAT style of play, and players that really reflect his character in the game and in life
5. They win. They aren't winning, don't have the players brought in, they don't get support (harsh but true)

Note: yes XC wins and has won, but it just is not a very spectator friendly sport or very accessible to students/fans...

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by onetouchfutbol on Sun Feb 22, 2009 10:44 pm

I think that per capita the Northwest is one of the best soccer areas in the US. DaTruRochin makes some good points. People support Clive. They support a dynasty and a winner. We have one of the best teams and venues in all of college soccer. Plus, the pioneers of the women's game like Tiffany Milbrett were such class acts. In addiction, I think that right now people really like sports that are fresh and exciting that they are not saturated with.

People are saturated with soccer in some places like Mexico, and some people kind of detest that. Here we are deprived, and fans thirst for it. Fans of the game of the pointed ball tend to find another team to cheer for whether it's U of O (puke), Notre Dame, OSU, etc. However, there are many true football fans at the women's soccer games who actually sing during the games. There's no place many of them would rather be.

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by Geezaldinho on Sun Feb 22, 2009 10:49 pm

UPSoccerFanatic wrote:I've received a suggestion that the reasons the Pilots women have such good attendance is that Portland doesn't have pointy ball, so alums best alternative is soccer. In other words, the season-ticket holder fans mostly are alums who would be football fans, rather than soccer fans, if Portland had football.

Most of the season ticket holders I know are not alums, but that may be just the ones I know. Does anyone know what the season ticket holder demographics are? Or whether the Athletic Department tracks fan demographics?

It would be really interesting to know. A lot of people say it would be impossible to recreate a fan base like the Pilots women have because the Pilots women are in a unique situation. I'd like to get a sense of whether that's really true.


The department probably does track alumns against season ticket holders. I haven't seen or discussed any ratios, But that's the sort of thing any competent development office would do.

As to the UP soccer fans being alumns who would be football fans elsewhere, I think it's hogwash.

Most all of the season ticket holders who sit around me in the fur line seats who's alma maters I know aren't alums. I'm not one.
There is an alumni base, there is also a devoted fan base who aren't. I also know folks who go to UP games Friday and Sunday and go to UofO game or Beaver games on Saturday. I usually hit a couple of UofO games a year. I don't think they are exclusive. I also don't think all of the Duck fans went to school there.

There's no doubt that UP has a unique situation, but I don't think it's linked to football. I think it's more linked to Clive and the people he enticed here. That includes coaches and players. And it is because of the brand of ball the teams try to play. A bit of it has to do with Clive convincing Harry Merlo to build the Stadium. A bit of it has to do with UP seeing a void in Women's sports and filling it. and yeah, excellence has a lot to do with it. It does at football schools, too.

If the fan base was mostly alumns, you would expect a pretty steady attendance rate. That's not the case. We diehards like to think that it's always been like it is now. The fact is, Clive never saw the current numbers. attendance is almost THREE TIMES the 2002 rate. Think about it. 2002 attendance was 16,852. This year was 47,084. Though Clive certainly built the foundation, The current program isn't hanging on - it's taking off.


~a cult member.

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by mattywizz on Mon Feb 23, 2009 5:06 am

I don't think the lack of an American football team has much of an effect on soccer attendance. I think most people that go, go because they like soccer, not because there is no football game to attend. Now if there were a conflict between the two, there might be a few people that would watch the pointy ball instead, but not many.

With regard to season ticket holders, most of the one's I know are not alumni. My parent have a block of tickets with family and friends and none of them are alumni (although my grandpa an I are...so there is an academic tie to the University).

Also, going to the games when I was growing up, we were always running into people I played soccer with, or coaches I had, basically people tied to soccer...who wanted to watch the highest level available in the area (before the Timbers were in town...and unless the Timbers have improved since I saw them, I would argue is still the highest level). I think that Portland has a very unique soccer situation. Also, I think the personalities of the women's soccer players really help them out. They are just a tough team to not love to watch and support.

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by up7587 on Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:20 pm

I wonder how many fans of Pilot basketball have been brought in from the soccer program? I think (but have no stats to support this) that historically the basketball fan base was mainly alumni and staff. It for sure wasn't people looking for the highest level of basketball. Rolling Eyes But if the soccer program attracted local support from soccer aficionados, has some of that support spilled over to become general UP support, or is it limited to the soccer program?

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by fan from afar on Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:22 pm

Lots of good points here. Being from far away and not an alumni, my reasons for attaching myself to the team are:
1- the style of play - ball possession, unselfishness, the joy of playing. That was the first thing that grabbed me.
2- The players seemed open to and appreciative of the fans. I thought I saw that right away, a feeling that we're all in this together, and postings on this site have since confirmed that.
3- the team exudes class. You can feel it from the stands, coaches and players, AND fans.
4- The history - the 2 championships, Clive, the past players.
5- They win. That is a large part of it, but the first four are probably still absolutely necessary to develop the fan base loyalty that this team has.

From here, I don't really know if the lack of American football there has much to do with it, but I doubt it. There seems to be a hard core of soccer enthusiasts in Portland that would gravitate to the team regardless.

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by DaTruRochin on Mon Feb 23, 2009 12:30 pm

American football presence would probably take away from some of the student support, but the community support is what really sets UP apart from other programs. The schools small size naturally lends to a small alumni base. I think when the team won their first championship it definitely started to draw crowds in to fill up not only the purple seats, but all the bleachers as well. My freshman year the only really packed game was the 0-0 draw with UNC, but by the time I graduated in 05 the crowds (especially on the "paying" side of the field) had grown exponentially. Portland is one of those odd (by american standards) cities where soccer really has found a niche cult following, and as everyone has reiterated the class of the program, players and play has made it quite the draw.

And yes 7587 I definitely think mens bb has a much stronger alumni following relative to the total attendance and whatnot. The team needs to consistently win in order to start bringing in the community sport the women's soccer program garners.

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by up7587 on Mon Feb 23, 2009 1:10 pm

Interesting. So what is the hardcore fan base vs. the 'good times' fan base? The soccer men have had less success recently, and draw fewer fans than the women, right?

We all want to see better attendance at Chiles for bball, but what does it take? A combination of high success and engaging personalities, to follow the WSOC model. But there are more alternatives for bball; this may be the first time in history that UP has the highest RPI in the state, while there is no other local soccer program near the same level as UP.

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by Indigo Kid on Mon Feb 23, 2009 1:22 pm

My wife and I became fans when our daughter played club soccer. That is where we learned the finer points of the game. Her team used to come to the games and we followed. Now that she is graduated from college, we still enjoy coming to the matches because we appreciate good soccer games and skilled player, both of which the Pilots have. We know of other parents like us that are not alumni enjoy attending. We will keep coming!!!

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by onetouchfutbol on Mon Feb 23, 2009 1:23 pm

I think that it would be an interesting project to compile a timeline of the things that helped to make the womens' soccer program great at UP. Mine would be something like this:

1) The men's team goes to the Final Four under pioneers like Kasey Keller and Merlo Field is built.
2) Clive lands the first great recruits for the womens' program in Milbrett and McMillan, beginning a run of several Final Four teams.
2.5) ESPN creates a show on the UP soccer programs called "Where Soccer Is King."
3) UP finally gets past its nemesis of Notre Dame in the playoffs...and later wins its first national championship under Clive (with key recruit Sinclair).
4) Clive passes away and Garrett Smith takes over, winning the second national championship.
5) Portland leads the nation in attendance for several consecutive years, and begins to simply reload with recruits year after year...

Anyway, you can add in the years and some other things. But, IMO the growth of the program goes back 21 years or so now to the men's Final Four appearance.

-----------------------------------------------

I went into Google looking for something about the "Where Soccer Is King" piece, and I found this about UP soccer instead: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/columns/story?columnist=hays_graham&id=3090960

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by fan from afar on Mon Feb 23, 2009 2:27 pm

"There is little malicious about the cheers that become regular parts of the squad's arsenal" - From the article referenced by AJ. I found them to be loud and irritating as advertised, and I loved it. On the other hand, I would have hated it if the language had been foul, or intensely personal against the other teams players, like you see at so many Big East basketball games. CLASS!!!! - The team, the coaches, the fans. There's no substitute.

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by Auto Pilot on Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:22 pm

I think part of it is that Portland is a progressive city outside the mainstream. I saw my first sidewalk that filtered and reclaimed water while I was there. Merlo Field is along the lines of if you build it they will come. When you think of women's college soccer in the Mid West you think Notre Dame. Texas to the South; North Carlina and most recently Florida State in the southeast. Pacific North West you think Portland. Northern Cal; Stanford and Southern Cal UCLA. This seems like a mind set I have and I think others may think so too.

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by purple haze on Tue Feb 24, 2009 9:22 pm

I second Fan From Afar's five points. All ring true to me, a non-alum and native Portlander who had never even visited the campus (frankly, I barely knew where it was) till I started taking my young daughters to see the Pilots play soccer. The regular friends I go with are also non-alums, fellow dads with girls, and we aren't just soccer fans but specifically women's soccer fans. I've moved from the cheap seats to reserved season tickets over the years, and these are the only seasons tickets I've ever wanted. I can't imagine how any other team will take their place for me. I watch plenty of other sports with moderate interest; UP soccer is a whole 'nother level. My wife and I feel strongly about supporting women's athletics, and we are glad that our youngest girl follows the Pilots avidly and views them as role models whom she can greet by name at Merlo, and get a smile and a hug in return. This personal, genuine connection between players and spectators brings me and my family back to the stands again and again.

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by onetouchfutbol on Tue Feb 24, 2009 10:09 pm

I think it's really cool to hear from the non-alums like purple haze who have gravitated toward the team. As a classmate of Tiffany Milbrett's, I can pretty well remember the process of becoming a fan. It's great to hear from people who did not attend the school who just support women's sports and good role models. The joy expressed in the women's sport after scoring a goal or the agony of the end of a season (when the women always seem to fall down and cry if the season comes to an end in the tourney) is really a one of a kind experience.

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by ShipstadPilot11 on Tue Feb 24, 2009 10:41 pm

athleticjames wrote:The agony of the end of a season (when the women always seem to fall down and cry if the season comes to an end in the tourney) is really a one of a kind experience.

Sidebar: This experience can also be observed by watching Adam Morrison.

Seriously though, I do believe that being invested in our women's team is an incredible experience. I think this experience is developed, in large part, by the clear gratitude the girls have for all their fans. IMO, it's a wonderful relationship that keeps the fans coming back to scream their lungs out for every home game and it keeps the girls thriving to perform their very best (not that they don't already have that drive).

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Re: Who are the Pilot fans?

Post by fan from afar on Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:19 am

It's one of those circular things, isn't it? The girls show their appreciation to the fans in many ways, so the fans become more numerous and more rabid, so the girls show even more appreciation, the fans become even more numerous and rabid, etc etc.

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