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Alabama Football: Is Student Attendance Really an Issue?

Alabama has won three BCS championships in a four-year stretch, but many alumni and fans are complaining. If you regularly peruse message boards, you will inevitably find the great debate over student tickets and attendance numbers. Some argue that it looks bad to have so many empty seats when a game is on national television. Others argue that the University of Alabama, like all colleges, should be about the students and alumni and non-affiliated fans should leave the debate alone.

According the the campus newspaper, the Crimson White, student attendance hovers between 70 and 80 percent for a game. In 2010, additional tickets were allotted to the student body, but the percentages have not fluctuated. Currently, the University reserves 17,000 tickets for students (and student guests) for home games. The stadium currently seats 101,821 and the University of Alabama reached a record high 33,602 students this fall.

There are several running debates about why students are not attending the games consistently. One argument suggests that the students cram into the lower bowl because they want to sit together. After the expansion, the student section (which is general admission) was divided into two parts — one section in the lower bowl and one section in the upper level. While there certainly does appear to be some level of crowding into the lower bowl, the attendance numbers don’t reflect a need for as many seats.

In speaking to students and alumni, there is strong opinion that dividing the student section into the two levels was a bad idea. However, the two sides disagree on how to fix the situation.  Another problem is the large influx of out of state students. Out of state students are a slight majority on campus. In fact, 55 percent of freshmen in 2012 came to UA from outside of Alabama. Maybe they just didn’t grow up caring about the Crimson Tide?

Student attendance debates are not unique to Alabama, it is a topic for discussion at campuses around the nation. Here are a few suggestions on how to look better on television.

  • Reduce the number of student tickets. We have seen a consistent level of attendance in the 70-80 percent range so tickets should be adjusted to meet that demand.
  • Make it easier to convert tickets for non-students. Open a ticket exchange where students who can’t attend can sell their tickets to the general public. Tickets can be tied to the ticket number and the student ACT cards and sold tickets can be credited to the student’s account.
  • Put all of the students on the same level. No further discussion should really be needed on this point.

Alabama fans are known for being passionate about the game of football. Is student attendance really a problem? We would like to hear your thoughts on this issue in the comments section below.

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