MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) Rick Stockstill once again is urging Middle Tennessee students and Murfreesboro residents to turn out and support his Blue Raiders.
Having already put his money where his mouth is by delaying his annual raise gives his words a bit more heft.
The coach went to athletic director Chris Massaro about restructuring his deal and signed a revised contract in late May that pushed back a $100,000 raise due this season to January 2019. Stockstill wanted to help Middle Tennessee more easily handle the new cost of attendance being paid to athletes this season.
The Blue Raiders report Wednesday for their first practice Thursday. When the season starts next month, Stockstill hopes to see more fans in the stands.
''If you don't support the school you went to, this is your home team,'' Stockstill said Monday. ''This is your home team, your hometown should be here watching it and support us. Our students should do the same. This is their school, they should be here ... I say this every year, and I'll say it next year, too, so my message hasn't changed.''
Stockstill's only promise is that people turning out will see a competitive team that plays with passion.
Middle Tennessee has had difficulty filling 30,788-seat Johnny ''Red'' Floyd Stadium even though the Blue Raiders won eight games in 2012 and 2013. A 50-47 win over rival Western Kentucky drew a season-high 24,911 last season, but Middle Tennessee didn't top 18,952 for any other game despite finishing 6-6 after losing two of the final three games.
Middle Tennessee opens Sept. 5 at home against Jackson State, but the Blue Raiders' best chance for a sellout comes Oct. 3 when they host Vanderbilt after trips to Alabama and Illinois.
''Looking at this schedule is very exciting,'' safety Kevin Byard said. ''It's definitely an opportunity for Middle Tennessee to get some national attention.''
The Blue Raiders certainly noticed their coach giving up a chunk of his pay to help them, making them appreciate Stockstill even more.
''I feel like we have one of the best coaches in America,'' senior linebacker T.T. Barber said. ''I mean, there's a lot of coaches that tell you what you want to hear to get you to come to a school. He's not a coach that tells you what you want to hear. He gets you to come to school and backs up his word. He tells us he'll take care of us, even after college. If you call him, he'll help you out and it shows right there.''
Byard called Stockstill's request to delay his raise an example of great leadership.
''We're glad to have him here at Middle Tennessee,'' Byard said.