UB student attendance for football drops off

Student attendance at Saturday’s game less than half of opening day’s

fialgateweb

David Rubino, a senior economics major, showed up at Baird Point for the football tailgate this past Saturday expecting to hang out and pregame with fellow students.

He ended up spending most of his time sparking up conversation with University Police officers.

“The cops were asking where everyone was,” Rubino said. “They were just joking around with us … I’ve never seen a bunch of cops approach people just to joke around with them. But I guess it made sense considering we were one of about 20 people at the parking lot.”

UB Athletics estimates just about 2,000 students attended the Bulls’ game against Nevada Saturday afternoon – far from the roughly 5,000 students it estimates came to the season opener against Albany on Sept. 5. UB Athletics allocates 75 parking spots for cars to park at each tailgate in the parking lot, but only 5-10 cars actually showed up Saturday.

“It’s a little bit of a cause for a concern,” said Todd Garzarelli, senior associate athletic director for external affairs.“Obviously there’s always going to be competing events. But to have such of a drastic drop between the first and second game with more of a competitive product on the field, I think there’s something that’s a loss on it.”

The total attendance of the game was 19,072.

It’s no secret that UB is not in the upper-echelon of college football with the programs that have nationally-known pregame festivities, but the program has made progress in the past couple years. UB Athletics improved its game-day atmosphere with the additions of tailgates, a free concert series and promotional giveaways. Buffalo’s attendance ranked second in the Mid-American Conference last season with an average of 20,403 per game.

But this past Saturday’s game against Nevada proved there is still work that needs to be done.

One reason for the low student tailgate turnout Saturday may have been UPD patrols. Although the amount of officers on duty for tailgates this year is same as last year, there were also a few extra contract security personnel checking IDs and advising people about rules, according to Assistant Chief of Police Chris Bartolomei.

Bartolomei said after the Bulls’ first home game Sept. 5 that students should expect to have their IDs checked.

“Underage students in possession of alcohol may be charged with Unlawful Possession, and/or referred to the Student-Wide Judiciary,” Bartolomei said in an email. “In addition, persons providing alcohol to minors may be charged with Unlawfully Dealing with a Child, regardless of whether they themselves are a minor. Unlawfully Dealing with a Child is a Class A Misdemeanor crime.”

But UPD hasn’t made any arrests or written any tickets or citations during the tailgates this season. Bartolomei said students have been very responsible and cooperative with officers and event staff.

Still, the fear of being caught affected at least one UB student. An underage student, who requested anonymity, said he was “scared away” from going to Saturday’s tailgate after noticing a slew of officers during the Sept. 5 tailgate. He said he didn’t go because “it’s not worth getting in trouble over a beer or two.”

UB is not a dry campus, which means it’s legal to drink on campus in authorized areas as long as a person is 21 or older. But there are specific rules students and fans have to follow in those designated areas.

UPD prohibits certain items from the tailgate including beer funnels, glass bottles, drinking games and kegs in order to prevent over consumption.

UPD also designates officers to show up early to the tailgate because it’s hard to determine how many students will be present.

He said as the football program grows and attendance increases, the university will likely revise policies based upon necessary safety considerations.

Shane Patterson, a senior communication major and member of True Blue, said the main reason for the inadequate numbers at Saturday’s tailgate was due to a music mishap. There was no speaker present to play music at Baird Point.

“That’s a big deal,” Patterson said. “Last time, we had a DJ. It was really good. That created the whole vibe. A lot of people were there [Saturday], but they came, thought it was dead and left.”

But for some students who actually went to the game, it seemed like there wasn’t much of a drop off in excitement. Patterson said this past Saturday’s game was better than the Albany game in regards to student section excitement. Most fans left in bunches at halftime of the first game due to temperatures reaching nearly 95 degrees, but most stayed until the end of Saturday’s close 24-21 Bulls loss.

“Ironically, I think the second game was better,” Patterson said. “Everyone stuck around. More people stuck around after halftime … everyone I talked to had positive vibes with it.”

Patterson also said upcoming tests may have had an effect on attendance.

UB Athletics implemented multiple promotions, like the new-and-improved tailgate, in the past few years to create a ‘big-time’ atmosphere. Last September there was an estimated 7,200 students at Bulls’ game against nationally ranked Baylor.

This year, the program included more promotions including live remotes with local DJs and the establishment of an all-student VIP patio. UB Athletics has focused on promoting the games throughout the week in various areas on campus like the Student Union and even the residence halls.

Garzarelli said Athletics was even heavier on student engagement leading up to Saturday’s game than it was with the home opener.

He said having students at game helps from a “home-field advantage stand point.”

“Obviously, you want to build the best home-field advantage you can,” Garzarelli said. “The general fans feed off of the students. If you have a vibrant student atmosphere, the general public will feed off of that and will make that stadium electric.”

With Saturday’s small student turnout, UB having a tremendous game day atmosphere may still be a work in progress.

Buffalo’s next home is this Saturday against Bowling Green. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

Jordan Grossman is the co-Senior Sports Editor and can be reached at jordan.grossman@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jordanmgrossman.