This debate has raged on Alabama message boards for more than a decade. Thanks to Marc Torrence at Crimson-White—the Alabama student newspaper—we now have some hard data to look at, and the powers that be at the Capstone has a hard question to answer: is it time to open the upper deck of the student section to people who have been waiting years for the chance to buy season tickets?
Photo Credit Drew Hoover/CW
The numbers compiled and analyzed by Torrence are sobering and frankly, might make some long-standing Tide Pride members angry:
Alabama’s season opener against San Jose State in 2010 drew the most students since 2008, when the University started using ACT Cards for football tickets and the earliest that data was made available. Of the 17,000 seats given to students, only 13,638 were filled for the game. That means 3,362 tickets went unused, and the section was just over 80 percent capacity.
And only 69.4 percent of student tickets were used in 2012, the lowest rate since 2009.
Western Carolina was the least-attended game by students in 2012 and since 2008, with just 5,995 students showing up. Auburn was the second-least with 10,851. The highest-attended game of the season was Ole Miss (13,486) followed by Mississippi State (13,483) and the Tide’s home opener against Western Kentucky (13,459). Alabama’s only loss of the season to Texas A&M was viewed by 13,385 students, while 11,959 attended the Tide’s game against Florida Atlantic.
The second-highest attended game by students since 2008 was Arkansas in 2011 (13,564), followed by Penn State in 2010 (13,522).
The “Game of the Century” between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 LSU on Nov. 5, 2011 drew just 12,646 students.
To be fair, some of the problem might be the fault of the athletic department, which for years has made it difficult for students who actually want to go the games. In a C-W story last year, some of the issues faced by ticket-holding students were brought to light.
Students face long waits and long lines just to get into the stadium before marquee games like last year’s LSU and Arkansas games. People who have grown up with microwave popcorn, instant messaging and broadband smartphones don’t like waiting for anything.
That said, lifelong Alabama fans who’ve been on the season ticket waiting list since their now teenaged children were in diapers don’t like waiting either. If the university took a look at student attendance numbers and decided to reallocate some of those sections and shorten the list, the tickets would be snapped up.
The student body at Alabama is not monolithic. There are some students who don’t miss a home game and don’t leave early. One is quoted in Torrence’s story. Another—a neighbor and recent business graduate—never missed one either. Those kinds of devoted students need and deserve the privilege of watching Alabama football.
The fans that have supported the program for their entire lives deserve the privilege, too. Some hard evaluations need to be done, and a hard decision needs to be made.