MoLos and Sac State ‘a perfect match’

Sacramento Mountain Lions, Sac State:MoLos linebacker Prince
Kwateng kneels before an Oct. 15 game against the Las Vegas
Locomotives. :File Photo

Sacramento Mountain Lions, Sac State:MoLos linebacker Prince Kwateng kneels before an Oct. 15 game against the Las Vegas Locomotives. :File Photo

Marshall Hampson

After being one win away from the United Football League Championship game last season, the Sacramento Mountain Lions will return to Hornet Stadium for another season in Sacramento.

As the first season packed Hornet Stadium, Sacramento Mountain Lions Business Director Joe Wagoner said he witnessed a perfect match with Sac State and the MoLo’s.

“The Sacramentans embrace their clubs. Looking at the attendance numbers, we averaged 18,000,” Wagoner said. “This last year we focused on Sacramento football fans. People understand Hornet Stadium &- it has the best field in the UFL, as far as playing surfaces go.”

Both Sac State and the Mountain Lions worked well before the first game to get schedules coordinated, the new field turf in place and parking situations figured out. Sac State Athletic Director Terry Wanless said both parties made it through the first season with few problems.

“Anytime you work with an organization for the first time there is always stuff that is undetermined that you have to work through,” Wanless said. “But I think overall, the energy they brought to the sport of football was excellent. They brought people who had not been to our campus before and they worked hard to put a good product together for our community.”

The Mountain Lions have proven they have the talent. After the first season in Sacramento, five players are headed to the NFL. Fullback Tyler Clutts, kicker Fabrizio Scaccia, tackle Michael Tepper and wide receivers Joe West and Rod Windsor will all be playing on Sundays after being standouts in the UFL.

“If you tell people what our league stands for, those five guys encompass it &- it’s getting a shot,” Wagoner said. “The big question going into this year was, “Are the players legitimate?’ Nothing speaks better than the best professional league in the world looking at our guys.”

The Sacramento Mountain Lions also had big names who have already been in the NFL.

“It has to be a good product and I have to believe in what I’m pitching,” said UFL Communication Director Michael Preston, in a recent UFL press release. “So having names like (Daunte) Culpepper, (Jeff) Garcia and (Dominic) Rhodes to throw out, and to have Dennis Green and Jim Fassel as coaches to really endorse the UFL gave us a lot of credibility. The standard of play on the field was, of course, excellent.”

Despite the MoLos falling one game short of making it to the championship game, both parties found success. University Enterprises Inc. and University Transportation and Parking Services both gained revenue from concession stands and parking, while the university had $450,000 of the new field paid for by the UFL.

The Mountain Lions made the most out of their budget and opportunities by having Flo Rida, Lincoln Brewster and local musician Jackie Greene perform during the games. Wagoner said entertainment like that and reasonable ticket prices helped the city of Sacramento figure out what the UFL is all about.

“It was an affordable option for people who were passionate about football,” Wagoner said. “It turned into a social scene, which was great. But for the most part, people came out because they were looking for something to do with their families and they love football.”

As the two parties look forward to a second season together, the Mountain Lions want to make the most of Sac State’s potential.

“I heard the other day that one out of 26 households in Sacramento are Sac State alumni,” Wagoner said. “We need to do a better job reaching out to the university community and people that have attended school there and come up with some sort of ticket offer or scholarship program to get these people to a Sacramento Mountain Lions game.”

This year, the MoLos will start a month earlier in August and play their first game on a Sunday. Although no exact date has yet been set, the UFL will start before Sac State football, high school football, and the NFL.

As the Mountain Lions look to sell out Hornet Stadium for the four home games in the 2011 season, Wanless said he believes the fans who packed the stadium last season will continue to see Sac State as a great place to watch football.

“What we do know is that we have a much more favorable image in the community,” Wanless said. “Now literally thousands of people have been exposed to our campus and they came away with a very favorable impression of the changes and what it’s like to attend an event at Sacramento State.”

Six months from now, the lights will be on once again at Hornet Stadium in time for professional football and the Sacramento community will have another opportunity to embrace the Mountain Lions.

“Within a matter of a month, you went from seeing no Mountain Lions logos at all to people wearing jerseys around town, people having their T-shirts on and people with their faces painted at the games,” Wagoner said. “A lot went into making it work and we’re just glad that it all did.”

Marshall Hampson can be reached at [email protected]