Hey, Illinois football, try these things to boost attendance


By Erik Prado

The 2013 Illinois football season was, by all accounts, terrible, as the team had only one conference win against lowly Purdue. And even that wasn’t too exciting.

So I wasn’t surprised when ESPN recently highlighted declining student attendance figures at college football stadiums across the country. 

It was obvious to someone who sat up in the press booth and, at times, could actually count how many people were sitting in the student section. Against Ohio State, the website Deadspin said Block I, Illinois’ student section, was “the saddest,” and against Northwestern, “the saddest-est.” 

It’s not rocket science as to why students don’t show up. Save for a few years, the football team has not been good for the better part of the last decade. The bars can be more exciting. And sometimes, students just don’t want to go.

The solution to these problems is not as easy as putting a better team on the field. It takes time to build a successful football program.

Until Illinois starts winning Big Ten Championships, it’s imperative the higher-ups and marketing come up with some new ideas to entice students to come out to Memorial Stadium on game day. Don’t think the players don’t notice playing in a half-empty stadium.

The first priority should be revamping the game day experience. Package food bundles with tickets, or just give food away if a ticket is presented. Enhance cell phone and Wi-Fi reception at Memorial Stadium, so everyone can Snapchat a selfie with the field in the background. Install charging stations for cell phones, because all those Snapchats and tweets drain batteries.

Highlights from other games should also be constantly shown on the new jumbotron.

Late afternoon and night games should be scheduled more often. The Big Ten is notorious for starting most of its games at 11 a.m. Students are out late most Friday nights and have trouble waking up the following morning. Most of all, playing under the lights gets fans more excited.

Students should also have the option to re-enter the stadium if they’ve left early. This allows for early exits during blowouts but still allows them to come back in the off-chance the Illini are about to upset the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

Currently, alcohol is only sold to those who have premium tickets, so in other words, students are not able to buy alcohol.

This should change to allow all students 21 and over to buy alcohol.

There is no denying a lot people want to drink on a college campus most Saturdays. Why else is “block” a huge hit?

Like any other arena and venue that sells alcohol, sales would stop after the third quarter. Memorial Stadium or the University can even regulate the sales through the swiping of I-cards if they choose to.

College football conferences in recent years have been signing monster television deals so their product is widely available. Those same deals are now the main reason why students are not showing up. 

As hard as marketing will try to get students in the stands, some will not show up.

It doesn’t hurt to try some of those ideas though. It’s not like Deadspin can make fun of Illinois any more than it already has.

Erik is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @e_prada.