With new season pass, Syracuse looks to improve football student attendance

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on August 30, 2017 at 12:28 am Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21 As he grew older, John Lombardi found himself going to fewer Syracuse football games. He plays on the SU rugby team, and that schedule conflicted with football games. Although the junior paid $219 for football and men’s basketball season tickets the last two years, Lombardi no longer has a ticket plan. He said he will attend a couple of games in 2017, but now that he lives off campus, he has other expenses, such as housing, Wi-Fi and utilities, and he’d rather save money than lock into a ticket plan.Lombardi, a finance and supply chain double major, said he often left football games at halftime if the Orange was losing. A “rough” Wi-Fi connection and warmer temperatures — the Carrier Dome does not have air conditioning — further nudged him from buying tickets this year.“They’re fun to watch, but sometimes it’s tough watching your guys get rocked,” said Lombardi, who has watched SU go 4-8 both years he’s been on campus.This is exactly what athletic departments don’t want to hear. Across the country, they are grappling with declining student attendance. Many, Syracuse included, see filling student sections as a way to reverse the fact that NCAA average home football attendance has fallen seven of the last eight years since its peak in 2008. Even at schools with entrenched football traditions and national titles, there are a growing number of empty seats in the student section. It’s especially important for schools to attract students to games, experts said, because more engaged fans are likelier to become donors later in life.This fall marks the debut season of Syracuse’s new student pass, which unveiled in April. It is SU’s first adjustment to how students get tickets in at least 10 years, and an additional points system is set to launch later this semester, said Anthony Di Fino, Syracuse’s associate athletics director for business development.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe student pass operates for football, men’s and women’s basketball and lacrosse. There are four options for students. Three include a priority points element, which includes additional benefits that carry into a student’s life post-Syracuse. The cost ranges from $200 to $300, putting SU’s plan among the most expensive in the Atlantic Coast Conference.Emma Comtois | Digital Editor“When we look at football, one of our goals is to increase student attendance and overall attendance in the Dome,” John Wildhack, SU’s director of athletics, said in April. “The Dome can be one of the great home-field advantages in all of college football.”Not recently. While Syracuse men’s basketball attendance consistently ranks among the top in the nation — SU has placed fourth or better each season since 1981, the year after the Carrier Dome opened — football attendance has lagged. Syracuse football attendance is coming off of its worst two years in Dome history. Despite a new head coach, high-powered offense and a victory over a Top 25 team, SU football’s home attendance finished the 2016 season as the program’s second-worst for a single season.This is why, experts said, the quality of the product on the field is not the silver bullet to getting young crowds to the game. A winning team is easier to sell than a losing team, said Robert Malekoff, a lecturer at North Carolina’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science, but the experience matters most. He calls Wi-Fi a “drug,” in that students need it working well and he said that for many students, game day means tailgating, not necessarily football. College football games are growing longer, especially those played with no-huddle offenses, which doesn’t help keep kids in seats for the entirety of games.“You have to think more broadly in the other options kids have,” Malekoff said. “They can sit at home and watch 900 games at once on TV where there’s cheap beer and access to a bathroom right there.”Daily Orange File PhotoMalekoff added that there is no one-size-fits-all model for athletic departments because of the variables of competitiveness, location, demographics and tradition. He and Daniel Funk, a professor in Temple’s Sport and Recreation Management program, recommend departments combat declining attendance by asking students for feedback on what they like and don’t like about games. Additionally, both said more contests and giveaways geared toward students would help.Di Fino said this week that SU may test giveaways later in the season. They are considering T-shirt, hat and backpack giveaways.Establishing a link with young fans can pay dividends over the long haul in the form of donations. Ticket sales and donations accounted for 41 percent of total revenue at FBS schools in 2014, according to a 2015 NCAA report.With student attendance down, Funk said, some students might be less likely to become alumni donors.“It’s more than just the four years.” Funk said. “If you can’t make that connection with students early on, there might be some negative residuals.”One of Otto’s Army’s primary goals, president and SU junior Audra Linsner said, is to increase attendance at smaller-scale sporting events, such as field hockey, soccer and women’s basketball. Second on her list is beefing up football attendance. She said adding activities, giveaways as well as promotions to the exterior of the Dome, and the Quad, could draw more students.“Working with the athletic department, … we’re going to make the campus as football-inclined as possible,” Linsner said. “The main issue is the pregame events are not right on campus. Most students don’t go the quad before games.”Linsner fills the shoes of Johnny Oliver, who as president of Otto’s Army was close to creating a new ticket plan in 2016, under former director of athletics Mark Coyle. When Coyle left, the student ticket plan was put on hold until this spring. Linsner said she hopes to both bolster the plan when it gains an incentive-based points element and make it more affordable, though cost has not been a part of her discussions with SU Athletics. Di Fino suggested that students concerned with the cost of the season pass purchase individual tickets at the discounted student rate.During basketball season, SU graduate student Joey Sisti found it difficult to make 7 p.m. tipoff after a day of class. He’d rather go to a bar and drink with friends. During football season, he stopped going to games when his friends stopped going. He purchased student tickets for his freshman and sophomore years but has not had them since. A combination of “slow” Wi-Fi speeds and “uncomfortable” bleachers keeps him watching games at home.“I’d rather watch them on TV because if they’re losing we can turn them off and do something else,” Sisti said. “It’s adding up. What is that $220? I’d rather save that, put it elsewhere.” Commentslast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *