Give 'em a reason

Bulls fans deserve more incentive for coming to games

image_54dcd1a05d19e

Rule number one in business: The customer is always right.

There’s a reason the student section looked more barren in Buffalo’s homecoming game against Miami Ohio than it did against Baylor.

More than 7,000 students attended the Bulls’ Friday night ESPN game against nationally ranked Baylor Sept. 12. The atmosphere was electric. The student parking lot was filled with alcohol, solo cups, food and folding tables. Music was blasting by DJ Anthony and students who decided to be their own DJ. Trash covered the parking lot.

In short, it looked like a college football game should.

Buffalo lost by 41 points, but come on, no one who attended the game expected any different.

Now, let’s look at the week before and after. Roughly 7,000 students attended both of these games combined. These Saturday afternoon games had a much different feel than the Friday.

And UB actually won these two games.

Why the drastic change in attendance? The reason is simple. Nobody heard of the teams UB was playing. Duquesne? Norfolk State?

These schools don’t quite have the same name appeal as Baylor.

So when the Bulls hosted Miami Ohio a week after the Norfolk State game, why was a sudden numbers boost expected? Because it was “homecoming?”

Did people even care about homecoming in high school? If so, it was only for the excuse to binge drink underage.

College students don’t need a football game to do this.

After a series of appreciatory tweets from Athletic Director Danny White to members of the community, he had a change of tune for the students following Buffalo’s 35-27 victory over Miami Ohio.

“Gotta get student turnout to be more consistent. Open to suggestions @UBTrueBlue - game day atmosphere starts & stops with the students!” White tweeted Sept. 27 at 11:50 p.m. – a few hours after the end of the game.

White’s right – partially.

When you watch ESPN, CBS, Fox Sports, you see crowds of 7,000-plus students. You are seeing stadiums filled with anywhere from 30,000-100,000 fans.

But what else are you seeing? NFL talent. And lots of it.

Students attend schools like Alabama, Texas, Notre Dame, even Syracuse, for this game day environment. Students aren’t coming to UB for football games. They are coming for an education, and a much cheaper one than any of these schools listed above.

Last season, the Bulls were filled with players with NFL talent. Khalil Mack and Branden Oliver, both members of last year’s Buffalo team, squared off against each other in NFL a couple weeks ago.

How often does this happen at a school like UB?

And I’m not trying to say this is Buffalo’s fault. The fact is the Bulls play in the Mid-American Conference. Yes, it’s a competitive league and quite frankly, an entertaining one to watch if you like scoring, but its biggest problem is the inconsistency of the schools.

If a MAC school finds a good coach, he’ll likely leave to a better paying job. The teams get players who are overlooked. Both Mack and Oliver accepted the only Division-I scholarship they were offered.

They just happened to be two of the most talented and hardest working players in the country. This doesn’t happen often.

And in case you didn’t notice, Mr. White, attendance is down all over the country. Student attendance at college football games is down 7.1 percent since 2009, according to a Wall Street Journal article. This is partially due to raising ticket cost and the fact that more games are on TV.

Buffalo students don’t have to worry about the cost of games, being that undergraduates attend for free with a student ID. But Buffalo just signed a new TV deal that airs every game on one of the ESPN channels.

This is a blessing and a curse.

It allows fans and alumni all over the country to watch the Bulls from the comfort of home, but it also allows those living on South Campus, in the dorms and Downtown Buffalo to do the same.

But I see you are open to suggestions, Mr. White. I have a few for you.

  1. Keep the tailgate concerts and Party at the Point going. Although they may not be the numbers you’d like to see, imagine how little fans would show up without these events.
  2. Incorporate Baird Point more. Being on the grass is much more fun than cement.
  3. Bring in real teams for students to see play. I understand this could be easier said than done, but if UB had a home-and-home with Baylor, there’s no reason Buffalo should be hosting two FCS schools in a season.
  4. The free ear warmers for Friday’s game are getting on the right track. Now keep the promotions free. The blackout was a great idea, so do something like that again, but give away T-shirts. Students like free stuff. If you don’t believe me, then look in my closet.
  5. Sell alcohol in the stadium. This seems like the simplest and easiest one to me, especially with how many other schools are currently doing so. Students may not spend $12 on a T-shirt, but I promise they will spend $5 on a beer to keep their buzz going from the parking lot to the stadium.
  6. And I mean this is the most obvious, but it still has to be mentioned. As Al Davis said, “Just win baby, win.” Actions speak louder than words. Students don’t need promises about the future. A free shirt on their back, beer in their hand and a victory on the field will be just fine.

email: owen.obrien@ubspectrum.com