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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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Tags: Alabama Crimson Tide Football

  • Kevin Connell

    Hopefully some real action is made on this issue this offseason!

  • Tyler Jones

    I don’t think the influx of out-of-state students is a problem. I’m a current student at UA and the students coming into Alabama from abroad become just as rabid fans as the rest of us. Of course, not everyone is into it, but those that are truly not into it just don’t buy tickets in the first place. I think the split in the student section is the problem. Everyone stands in line for hours (for bigger games) to get into the lower bowl, but no one really wants to sit in the upper deck. I think putting the entire student section in the lower bowl would fix the problem, and open those deck seats up to the general public. I feel most students would agree with me.

    • BamaHammer

      Not a bad solution; be interested to hear what some of you sidewalkers (a term of affection, in my mind) think of it.

      • William Boot

        Comments vary on the issue. I agree with Tyler on that point. Most out of state students do become rabid fans and putting everyone in the lower bowl would be the main step to fixing the problem.

        There is also a social aspect to the game day experience that many of the people in these debates simply don’t get as well. Sporting events have always been that way. Check out the Kentucky Derby for a prime example.

  • Roll Tide Ricky

    Being an alum of Alabama, if only 80% of the Student seats are being used then the 20% that are not being used should be released to the public as reserved seats. If the students do not want to use the upper level tickets then release the upper level to the public. Go on craigs list, there are a ton of student seats available for purchase.

    • William Boot

      Agree. It may as simple as releasing the upper deck. I do think they need to make it easier to convert a student ticket to a guest ticket and there should be a way to do that on game day.