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July 30, 2012
Danny Hope was fired up.
When Purdue and Greater Lafayette area leaders gathered to unveil a new initiative to garner community support for the Boilermakers on Monday, Hope's speech was short but impassioned.
"Get involved. Get involved. Get involved," Hope said, his voice rising, to the 50 or so people gathered near Tippecanoe County Courthouse. "We'll start off by letting the (Purdue) flags fly and sending a message. We're going to send a message inside of Ross-Ade Stadium, and we're asking the people of Tippecanoe County to send a message for anyone that's riding to our county or through our county that you're Boilermakers and you're here for the football team."
As part of the "SpiritMakers" campaign, fans and businesses are encouraged to decorate their homes and storefronts and the best will be awarded prizes.
The contest started Monday, and individuals and businesses can submit photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. Voting will take place through photos on Purdue Athletics' Facebook site. Winners will be announced on Wednesdays during the season. They'll receive tickets to the home game that weekend, food vouchers and a gift card for merchandise.
The Mayors of West Lafayette and Lafayette also were on hand at the event to announce a friendly wager on which city can have the most Purdue flags flying in support of the "Boilermaker Revelry" campaign, which will run Aug. 13-Sept. 1.
Boilermaker Bridge Walk also is back for another year, allowing fans to meet players on Fridays before home games. There also will be a chance to meet the team on Aug. 25 on the north end of Ross-Ade Stadium plaza at a meet-and-greet.
"It's really critical, not only for our football team but also for Tippecanoe County, that we really generate some momentum together," Hope said shortly after the event. "We have the potential this year to have a very good football team. It's an opportunity for the fan base to get on board, if they haven't been on board, to get back on board and really get behind the football team. The more they support us, the better chance we have to becoming a great football team.
"It's a win-win. Every great team ahs a great fan base, and every great fan base wants to have a great team and we have a chance to lock arms and make that happen this upcoming season. It's an outstanding opportunity for the people of Tippecanoe County to get to know our players and really develop a love affair between our county and our football team, something that has to happen. This is a great opportunity for us to springboard the program, to re-energize the fan base, get people back on board."
Attendance has steadily declined over the past four seasons, going from 59,326 in 2007 to 45,225 in 2011. Season tickets sales are on the same pace they were last season at this point, Burke said.
Purdue's home games include Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, Marshall, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State and Indiana in 2012. The opener against EKU is on Sept. 1.
"It's not the easiest home schedule," Burke said. "Ultimately, that shouldn't make a difference, if people are really into football. It doesn't make a difference in basketball. But I think we've got to show people that where we let off last year in Detroit and how we finished against Ohio State and how we played against Indiana is kind of the threshold from which we're going to grow. If we do that, the people will be back."
Burke said it's important to make game week special, not just game day.
That's why there's the concentration on the flag revelry, the Bridge Walk and other events leading up to game day, which will be detailed at BoilermakerDepot.com.
"If you're coming in from Indianapolis, Chicago or Fort Wayne, going geez, what's going on? You've got to hunt and peck to find it. This will make it easier. Good marketing probably gets you another 5-10 percent.
"But the bottom line is we've got to produce on the field, and I think we will."
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