Blue Raiders will need strong crowds in final games

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- A concert by hip-hop star Big Boi drew a larger than average crowd to Middle Tennessee State's game Saturday, but fewer than officials trying to boost attendance had hoped.

MTSU allowed fans who came to the game to stay for a free concert afterward by hip-hop star Big Boi, an effort to meet the NCAA's minimum attendance requirements to stay in Division I-A. The
game drew an estimated 16,718 people.

The Blue Raiders are 3-4 and had drawn about 14,000 fans to each of their first home games, well below the 15,000 average needed to stay in Division I-A.

"It's definitely an attempt to get people in the stands," MTSU
spokesman Doug Williams said before the game. "We want our students to come to games and be exposed to the MTSU experience, and we thought this would be a good way to do it."

When the school moved up from the lower Division I-AA in 1999, the NCAA requirement was simply to sell at least 17,000 tickets. Now the number is lower, but the fans actually have to attend. If the school sells 30,000 tickets, but only 14,000 show up, that's
not good enough, Williams said.

Middle Tennessee, located in Murfreesboro, 30 miles southeast of Nashville, has two more home games after Saturday.

"We certainly want to reach that threshold [of 15,000], and
that's certainly part of the motivation," Williams said.

The game: Clint Marks threw for one touchdown and ran for another to lead Middle Tennessee State to a 34-14 victory over Idaho.