UF Football: Student attendance, participation

Seven percent of the student body attends UF’s homecoming game

By Sarah Stubbs

@sarahxstubbs

The University of Findlay football squad, now 4-3 on the season, has experienced several firsts and memorable moments throughout the fall semester – practicing at a prison, receiving a professional turf practice field, and winning in overtime this weekend at the homecoming game against Northwood University.

Something that hasn’t budged much, though, in the past three years is the student attendance of UF football games.

Troy Berry, athletic tickets and concession manager, is in charge of keeping a close record of the attendance details of each game.

According to Berry’s records, there were 575 students in attendance at last Saturday’s homecoming game. Out of the 4,186 students at UF, only seven percent went to the game.

Although this game was the highest student attended homecoming game in the past six years, attendance was still not as high as it was for the last three opening games: 626 this year, 617 in 2014, and 733 in 2013.

Jim Givens, associate athletic director for development and business, said that the off-campus football stadium is a major factor in getting students to the games.

“We have to work extra hard at (marketing) football here just because we don’t have a facility. We share a facility with the high school and it’s three and half miles away. For students who live on campus, we offer shuttles but they are not utilized much,” said Givens.

The shuttle service picks up students in front of Old Main 90 minutes prior to the start of a home football game and makes trips back and forth to campus throughout the game.

According to Berry, the off-campus location is not the only deterrent. The lack of parking poses a problem, too.

On Saturday, cars were parked in the parking lots near Donnell Stadium, down side streets, and on N. Main Street.

Two years ago, UF’s Sport and Event Management (SPEM) club branded the student section as the Spillzone in hopes of drawing bigger crowds at all home sporting events, not just football games.

Givens says that the Spillzone effort has been slow to start, and student attendance at home sporting events remains a popular conversation within the athletic department and SPEM program.

“Quite frankly, I know in the athletic department, it has not gone as well as we had hoped,” said Givens.

Shelby True, junior pre-vet major who painted her face for the homecoming game, agreed that the Spillzone still needs some work.

“I think if it was more organized more students would come out. I don’t think people knew we were supposed to have a black-out. So maybe if we get the word out better, more people will participate,” said True.

A trend in the last five seasons has been that many students go to the first two to three home games and much fewer attend the last two to three.

In 2013 and 2014 there were six home football games. The average student attendance for the first three games in 2013 was 498 students. The average for the last three was 84 students. Similarly, in 2014 there was an average of 474 students present at the first three games and 127 for the last three.

This year, the first three home games average out to be 419 students in attendance per game.

Games that were cold or rainy or fell on fall break were dramatically lower than the rest of the others, skewing the averages some.

Not only are location, parking, and weather variables that affect the number of students attending home football games, Ohio State football game times play an important role, too.

“We try to do our schedule and game times based on what Ohio State is doing. If there is an Ohio State game during the afternoon and we’re playing in the afternoon, there’s probably a good chance that people are going to be watching the Ohio State game,” said Givens.

Givens said that the athletic department’s aim is to not only increase student attendance, but overall attendance, too. The department achieves this through marketing efforts and an increased online presence.

“We’ve done just about everything you could think of. And unfortunately we don’t have an unlimited budget and we can’t give away 5,000 pizzas or T-shirts at every game,” said Givens. “We are starting to use social media much more and our website has changed immensely. We are trying to get the community involved so different organizations and entities in town will come.”

For Givens and the rest of the athletic department, it’s a continual process.

Although the last three years of student attendance has been relatively consistent, overall averages from the past six years show that there has been a slow spike since 2010.

In 2010, the average was 194. In 2014, the average was 300 – a 106 student-per-game increase.

Givens credits this to the success of the UF football program.

“It’s been better this year. We’ve had good weather and we’ve played some night games which really help,” said Givens. “Typically, the normal fan follows winners. We’ve done a great job over the past five or six years of winning football games.”

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