CSUS, UC Davis try to get ticket-hold­ers to at­tend

The Sacramento Bee - - Front Page - BY JA­SON AN­DER­SON jan­der­son@sacbee.com

Last No­vem­ber, Sacra­mento State played host to North­ern Colorado at Hor­net Sta­dium. The Hor­nets trailed by one at half­time be­fore scor­ing 30 unan­swered points to beat the Bears 50-21 be­fore an an­nounced crowd of 4,612, but the ac­tual at­ten­dance was much lower.

Fewer than 800 of the

2,356 tick­ets is­sued were re­deemed, a us­age rate of

33.8 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­nal doc­u­ments ob­tained by The Bee. Stu­dents, in­di­vid­u­als on the pass list and oth­ers who were ad­mit­ted for free made up more than twothirds of the 3,000 or so peo­ple who ac­tu­ally at­tended the game.

Ticket sales are down for col­lege foot­ball games across the coun­try, but sell­ing tick­ets is only part of the prob­lem ath­letic pro­grams face. With HDTV be­com­ing ubiq­ui­tous and countless forms of al­ter­na­tives, many schools find that fans don’t al­ways show up even af­ter they have pur­chased tick­ets.

“That’s not un­com­mon, whether it’s Sacra­mento State or Stan­ford or the San Fran­cisco 49ers or even the Sacra­mento Kings,” Sacra­mento State ath­letic direc­tor Mark Orr said. “Some­times tick­ets just aren’t used even though they’re sold.”

Sacra­mento State’s vic­tory over North­ern Colorado served as a spring­board for the Hor­nets, who con­cluded the sea­son with three con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries to fin­ish 7-4, their first win­ning cam­paign since 2014. They ended the sea­son two weeks later with a wild 52-47 vic­tory over ri­val UC Davis in the 64th an­nual Cause­way Clas­sic.

The of­fi­cial at­ten­dance for the Cause­way Clas­sic was listed at 11,828, but a ticket uti­liza­tion re­port pro­vided by Sacra­mento State shows 35.4 per­cent of the 5,265 tick­ets sold went unre­deemed.

Sacra­mento State is hardly alone. Col­leges across the coun­try have ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar strug­gles, in­clud­ing Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion schools that are re­quired to meet min­i­mum at­ten­dance re­quire­ments to main­tain their FBS stand­ing.

There are no such re­quire­ments at Sacra­mento State and UC Davis, which com­pete in the


Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship Sub­di­vi­sion as mem­bers of the Big Sky Con­fer­ence. Cal Poly, an­other Big Sky school, re­ported tick­e­tusage per­cent­ages of 63.8,

60.4, 48.2, 46.3 and 42.7 for five home games in


UC Davis has man­aged to defy this trend, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures pro­vided by the uni­ver­sity. The Ag­gies played five home games last sea­son with tick­e­tusage rates rang­ing from

88.5 to 94.7 per­cent. “Sell­ing tick­ets and ex­pos­ing as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to our teams is a pri­mary goal of our ath­let­ics pro­gram, and in the past few years at UC Davis we’ve seen an in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple who are fol­low­ing and at­tend­ing our games,” UC Davis ath­letic direc­tor Kevin Blue said. “Ticket sales in col­lege ath­let­ics have been pro­fes­sion­al­ized over the last 10 or 12 years and op­er­a­tionally re­sem­ble pro­fes­sional sports or­ga­ni­za­tions, more so than they ever have. The in­creas­ing so­phis­ti­ca­tion in col­lege ath­let­ics ticket sales is a good thing for the rev­enue gen­er­at­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of ath­letic de­part­ments, es­pe­cially given the chal­lenges in achiev­ing con­sis­tently strong at­ten­dance in the mod­ern era where there are so many dif­fer­ent en­ter­tain­ment choices avail­able . ... We’re al­ways look­ing to im­prove how well we are com­mu­ni­cat­ing and pro­mot­ing the op­por­tu­nity to come to our events, but we are see­ing a de­gree of suc­cess that we’re happy with.”

Blue said ac­tual tick­e­tusage rates might be higher at UC Davis, Sacra­mento State and the ma­jor­ity of schools across the count that rely on er­ror­prone tech­nol­ogy to scan tick­ets as fans en­ter sta­di­ums.

“The dis­crep­an­cies be­tween the dis­trib­uted and the scanned num­bers are of­ten ac­counted for by fac­tors such as the prob­lem­atic con­nec­tiv­ity of the scan­ners,” Blue said. “There is also go­ing to be less than 100 per­cent com­pli­ance in terms of pro­ce­dures by out­sourced se­cu­rity per­son­nel that scan tick­ets. There are plenty of le­git­i­mate rea­sons why the scanned num­ber does not match the num­ber of tick­ets sold.”

The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported in Au­gust that re­ported at­ten­dance for FBS schools dropped for the fourth con­sec­u­tive year in 2017, fall­ing 7.6 per­cent over that time. The news­pa­per re­ported that ac­tual at­ten­dance at FBS games was about 29 per­cent lower than an­nounced at­ten­dance fig­ures.

Part of the strug­gle is ap­peal­ing to stu­dents. Many schools of­fer free ad­mis­sion to any­one with a stu­dent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card, but stu­dents have many in­ter­ests and ac­tiv­i­ties com­pet­ing for their time and at­ten­tion, maybe more than ever in the age of so­cial me­dia, Orr said.

He noted that Sacra­mento State tries to cre­ate ex­cite­ment for foot­ball games by hold­ing pregame tail­gate par­ties fea­tur­ing a lo­cal disc jockey. Stu­dents are also en­cour­aged to use Twit­ter and In­sta­gram to post pho­tos that are then dis­played on the video board in­side the sta­dium.

“It’s dif­fi­cult for a col­lege stu­dent, with so many other things go­ing on and so many other op­tions, to be able to at­tend a foot­ball game for three or four hours, to be there and be en­ter­tained the whole time, and want to do that six or seven times a year,” Orr said. “So we’ve tried to make it an ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Blue agreed.

“The sport­ing event is im­por­tant, but it’s al­most a com­ple­ment to the so­cial as­pects of the stu­dents at­tend­ing the games to be with each other and have fun,” he said.

Some of the tech­nol­ogy col­lege foot­ball pro­grams are us­ing to draw peo­ple into their sta­di­ums — high-def­i­ni­tion video screens, Wi-Fi con­nec­tions and so­cial me­dia plat­forms, for ex­am­ple — might also be keep­ing them away.

“So many of our games are ac­ces­si­ble on TV, ra­dio and other me­dia plat­forms,” Orr said. “So maybe I have a ticket to the game, but I’m tired or I don’t want to drive or I don’t want to park. The qual­ity of HDTV, tablets and cell­phones might make the choice not to go a lit­tle eas­ier. The tech­nol­ogy and the ex­pe­ri­ence you can get from those plat­forms has changed so much over the last 20 years. I’m sure that has im­pacted the de­ci­sion to stay home.”

HEC­TOR AMEZCUA Sacra­mento Bee file

The of­fi­cial at­ten­dance for last year’s Cause­way Clas­sic was listed at 11,828.

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