MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- More than 45,000 fans filled Tiger Lane and the Liberty Bowl for the U of M's football game against Cincinnati Thursday night.
Not long ago, you'd be lucky to find half that many in the stands.
"The atmosphere is great. You can feel the energy," said season ticket holder Eric Groff. " It brings everyone together. I mean, people love sports in this town."
The school, known for its basketball success, now has a passionate football following. The team has made a dramatic turnaround in the past couple seasons.
"This is what we have been waiting for. We finally have some solid Memphis football in the city. Everybody is supporting it. Blue everywhere. Traffic backed up down the streets," said Tiger fan Tim Dunavant.
The game aired prime-time on ESPN, which hasn't happened for a regular season game in seven years.
Fans said the national coverage put the school on the map again and re-energized alumni across the country.
They hoped to be taken seriously and land in a bigger conference like the Big 12.
"Really show ESPN and the world what Memphis Tigers are all about," said former Tiger football player Joe Doss.
Fans called their new success a celebration not only for the campus, but for the city.
"I mean everyone is out here. It's Memphis. It's not white or black or anything else. We are just all fans. That's all we care about," said Groff.