Getting butts in seats has been a well-documented issue across college football for years now. When every game is on TV, it’s harder than ever to convince fans to spend four hours in the sun rather than on their couch with every other televised game and a stocked refrigerator at their finger tips.
Students are an even more challenging demographic. Those darn millennials — despite the fact current college kids are actually part of Generation Z — just don’t get football the way their older siblings and their parents did.
And I’m here to tell you… there may be something to that.
Clemson AD Dan Radakovich conducted a presentation for the school’s Board of Trustees recently, and afterward the first question a board member had for him was about student attendance at football games. Actually, it was a command: “Fill the Hill.”
“The Hill” is the area beyond Memorial Stadium’s west end zone, the same hill that Clemson players run down after touching Howard’s Rock.
The school reserves 3,000 tickets per game for students and had trouble filling them last year. According to the Charleston Post & Courier, only 2,713 of the ticketed students actually made it in the stadium for the Auburn game. The opener against Kent State saw 2,444 students use their claimed tickets, and a mere 1,539 students showed up to the Hill for the Oct. 7 game against Wake Forest.
All this at a program that has lost one home game in four seasons and won the national championship the season prior.
I have no magic bullet for fixing this issue, and Clemson doesn’t either. Athletics department leadership has worked with the student body government to change the ticketing system to a first come, first serve basis. “We’re just trying to pick the (plan) that fits Clemson best and gets the tickets in the hands of the right students,” deputy AD Graham Neff told the paper after holding “bi-weekly” meetings with Clemson’s student body president.
If you’re catching grief from university leadership about how to get students to football games — don’t worry, you’re not alone.