SMU Alum Has Idea for Boosting Student Attendence at Games: No More Tailgating!

Categories: Sports

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The Alumni Guy is watching you student section, and he doesn't like what he sees.
SMU is inching closer to admission into one of college football's hallowed BCS conferences, which will mark the latest milestone on what the school and its alumni hope is the road back to football relevancy. It's certainly been a long road, starting with the death penalty in '87 and winding precariously through 2008, when the Mustangs finished 1-11.

Things have been better in recent years, but still: It's a dismal history, one that has understandably eroded student support for the team. Even the most ardent SMU supporters, you would think, understand that to pack out the student section, it might take an extended period of something better than mediocrity -- better recruits, better opponents, a better product. In short, something to compete with students' other entertainment options, which in Dallas, unlike in Lubbock or Stillwater or Eugene, are many. (Getting shit-faced and watching the Texas game at Katy Trail Ice House comes to mind.)

But at least one alum has had it with the student apathy, and he has what he thinks is a pretty drastic (but quite necessary) solution. And this isn't any alum. This is the Alumni Guy.

His real name is Rick Larson. He's a stockbroker by day, but he cares enough about SMU to pen a column for the campus newspaper. And it's hard to blame him for his passion. Rick, after all, was there for the Glory Days. The Mustangs won a share of the national title in 1981. That was Rick's senior year.

He still goes to the games, partying beforehand and marching in with his alumni friends. The October 15 game, against Central Florida, was the straw that broke Rick's Eric Dickerson-jerseyed back.

Sitting in the stadium that beautiful afternoon, I overheard several alums wondering, "Where are the students?" I answered that the way it works now, only a few students need attend the games, that they text back to the missing -- or take pictures -- on what's going on.
Most alumni would probably shrug and hope for better attendance in future years, especially if the Mustangs can contend against a team like Boise State, which is also expecting an invite to the Big East. But not Rick. Rick's a doer, not a shrugger. Rick has a plan. And some questions about the students' academic performance. But mostly: A plan!
I suggest the administration start by cancelling the tailgate parties for the students and keep them for the old folks down the block. We can not only have a few beers, we can still actually walk a straight line into the stadium. We pay attention and get loud, too. When the administration sees a lot more student bodies at the games, then they can have their tailgate parties back. ...

... I noticed at the TCU game -- where SMU students didn't show up, either -- that the Frog undergrads made the trek into the stadium in droves. Their SMU counterparts should be ashamed. Here, the alums have delivered a new stadium and a successful coach to the school. The team responds by beating TCU and giving their fellow students a winning record, potentially a bowl game, and their fellow students thank them with their silence. ... I wonder if their professors are noticing their blasé attitudes in the classroom, as well?

I emailed Rick about his idea, telling him I thought it was a little wacky. After all, Boulevard-ing has become a popular pastime since its inception in 2000 -- very SMU, what with all the big-screens and barbecues. Still, he defended himself. There were only 500 students at the game anyway, he said. There's no way canceling the tailgate could hurt attendance, so why the hell not?

It's a good point, except that Rick's goal now seems to be keeping attendance exactly like it is. Also, canceling the student tailgate definitely would hurt attendance, since at least half of those 500 students surely got trashed at the tailgate and walked into the stadium on accident, thinking it was an architecturally elaborate sorority house. Cut out the tailgate and you're down to 250 tops.

But Rick wasn't having it. Besides, he said, aren't wacky ideas exactly what this country needs?

Perhaps it takes "wacky" ideas in order to get results, especially in a situation that has grown so status quo and apathetic. Come to think of it, our country could use some "wacky" ideas in getting out of this political and financial mess that we are in.
Maybe. But like I told Rick: If it's wacky that we need more of, we're well on our way to a turnaround.

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43 comments
EagleScout
EagleScout

For starters, it takes time, probably years, to build up a fanbase that has been vacant since I was in 3rd grade (1980's).Also, for those of you that have been down to Rice in Houston...it's not always smart to build a giant stadium for a small school.

guest
guest

SMU'S ALLOTMENT OF TICKETS FOR THE TCU GAME WERE SOLD OUT!!!!! STUDENT'S DIDN'T JUST "NOT SHOW UP".

sports are fun
sports are fun

dangit!  I hate it when people don't like to do the stuff I like to do.

Jack
Jack

Boulevarding isn't the cause. Look at any school in the nation - everyone tailgates. If we get into a good conference and the team continues to win, the students will attend games. Also, you can't expect the student body at SMU to fill the stadium. We're a university of roughly 6,500 undergrads. Even if every last one of us attended the stadium wouldn't be full. Your proposed solution takes away the 25% of the game day football experience that wasn't lost to the death penalty. Proposing that the other 75% (attending and supporting) will come as a result of removing boulevarding will simply mean that students don't attend or come over to campus at all, they will just party at home and watch the games on TV. I wholeheartedly  disagree - and this coming from a student who has attended two away games and every home game this season.

Jim
Jim

Bad idea...If you closed the tailgate students would either stay in bed or just go to an a bar. Casual fans wouldn't bother coming either. With the boulevard you at least have the students within walking distance of the game and you offer some thing fun for the casual fan to do on a nice Saturday.

Also they shut down the beer service 30 min prior to kick off at the fraternity tents already. Another thing this is not just for students, I would say the majority of ppl are alumni/non students tailgating (south of the flag pole).

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Open a Hollister inside the stadium and give the students a percent discount for every point SMU scores. That's about the only way.

RicardoMay
RicardoMay

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for more info go to С А S H S H А R Р . С О М

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

People have complained about the lack of students at SMU games for as long as I have been alive--and that includes the glory days of the early '80s.  I don't know why.  Some schools are just like that.

Mike
Mike

- How does the school get away with underaged students (80+% of student body) getting trashed on school?  UP is not Cancun.- Is anybody but student groups tailgating?  If not, and students are not going to the game and have no interest in the game, what purpose does it serve?  They are not adding to the event.  If they want to get wasted, they can do it in the dorms or houses- Enthusiasm for your team, particularly at a small school, should not be dependent on record.  I went to a small school.  Those players were friends and people I had in classes.  Unlike factories like OU or UT where the paid players are let out of cages on Saturday to perform, those people were not just numbers.  It's your choice, but you are missing something not to be part of it, particularly when the alternative is being in a drunken stupor.  Rest assured you'll have plenty of time with the rest of your life to get drunk, if you so choose.

MoCox
MoCox

Idea: Make it a competition between the frats to have the most attendence. Winners get a free boulevard spot the next season.

AHH
AHH

Rick Are You Retarded

scottindallas
scottindallas

You got it right Joe, start winning and the kids will show up.  Boulevarding is a great success for SMU, ending it would be foolish.  Actually, these comments and the flippant attitude of Alumni Guy makes me wonder if I'd want him advising me on my investments.

Russell Turman
Russell Turman

Hey Joe...Give spell check a shot.  Only way SMU's "Attendance" is going up is by being relevant.

smu mustangs 11
smu mustangs 11

Punishment typically doesnt work, these kids and fellow greeks will only throw large pre game parties and will stay at the location during the game... Sadly, we need to incentivize untill it become a tradition. Since we have such a large greek population and all the parties are run by points. Why doesnt the university award each greek house for certain % of their members swipe in with their card at beginning of the game and swipe out at end of the game. I realize people can loop hole this but its just a low cost solution.

Steve
Steve

Chicken-and-egg thing.

SMU wins its last two games, it'd be in the Top 25.  Not for long, not in The Conversation,  but they would have been in the Top 25.  That puts butts in seats.

Let June do his thing.  Let them get into a conference with a little more than zero prestige.  Let the new QB hopefully play more like his first game than his last.

Rallison
Rallison

I have an idea... Bring the boulevard in the stadium! Start selling beer at concession stands!

Clemson is 1981 Champ
Clemson is 1981 Champ

Saying SMU won the national championship in 1981 is a stretch.  They finished #5 in the AP poll and weren't recognized at the national champion by any of the traditional outlets (AP or UPI).  They were selected by something called the National Championship Foundation.

I don't think cutting tailgating will help attendance at all.  Student attendance is an issue at a lot of schools.  Kids today just don't want to attend live sporting events.  But SMU also has the problem of low school spirit.

Brett
Brett

When I was a sophomore in 2004/2005, SMU started cracking down on the underage drinking on the boulevard.  The 04/05 season was when the started introducing the wristbands for 21+ people.  Word got around before a game one weekend that TABC was going to be patrolling the tents.  Our solution as students?  None of our frat tents and tables were set up and no one showed up.  Everyone organized off campus watching parties at places like Jack's and Milo's.  I walked across campus to Jack's and the boulevard was empty. No one was there.  Guess how of us went t the game that day? No one.  Half that tailgate don't go to the game. But guess what? Half of them do.

Lee
Lee

TCU allows students to go out to the tailgate at halftime then return to the stadium. Maybe that would keep the students at the game into the second half.

TMB
TMB

We need win consistently, go to a big time bowl game and play quality opponents that people have heard of/care about/know people that went to these schools. When you play schools like East Carolina, Southern Miss, & Central Florida (biggest school in the country btw), no one at SMU has heard of, cares about, or really knows anyone that went to these schools. The Big East will solve to some degree the name recognition issue and maybe students will half care about the opponents, but the friendly rivalry issue really wont be solved until the Big 12 decides to start rebuilding itself as the Southwest Conference with a new name. Any alumni of any of these schools would be thrilled to see a conference with the old Southwest Conference + Oklahoma schools (Both OU and OSU were members of the SWC in the early days of the SWC). You do that and you will have a conference people care about locally and nationally will gain exposure with the quality of football, aged rivalries, etc. Its a win-win. 

Lee
Lee

If they took away tailgating, I would stop going to the games.  Our tailgates are already boring as shit with all of the UP red tape.

Rangers100
Rangers100

"The Mustangs won a share of the national title in 1981. "

I think you mean 1982, but even then I'm not sure what national title they won a share of.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Well, if the Mustangs start playing some world-class college football such as UT/OU, then you'd see these kids pack the stands. As of now, its just another "Harvard On The Hill" thats just a feeder for the HPISD..

bw
bw

Since 2002, SMU is 39-78. Why would you go to a football game there? Plenty of hot drunk girls to watch rather than a pathetic football team.

Rooster
Rooster

One of the problems I see with alumni (and I'm one of them) is the folks who were students during the glory years have difficulty grasping why football is a non-event for current students, when it was so huge for the alumni's college experience.

Does this guy really think you're going to "force" students to go watch a football team that hasn't been relevant in 3 decades by taking away the only enjoyable activity Saturday football currently has for them?

If you take away tailgating, students aren't going to flock into the stadium to watch bad football.  They're going to flock to the Barley House and watch whatever game is on TV.

Give the team time to get better.  The students will come back then.

This dude needs to take a patience pill.

Ed D.
Ed D.

From this I gather that 1) students love to drink and 2) certain monied alumni wish they would attend the football games. The obvious solution is alumni-subsidized cheap (or free!) beer for students at the games. Problem solved.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Wacky ideas ?

Close off sections of the stadium so the crowd looks bigger because of everyone being compacted into the one or two needed open sections ?

Try being relevant ?

WIN GAMES...

Hey Rick maybe the Bigger stadium was a dim witted Idea ?

williamedia
williamedia

It doesn't take one good season a fan base to make. If SMU wants students to attend they have to have a successful team on a regular basis to build that student comradeship and loyalty. 

This years Freshman might attend because they see a winning team doing well and its exciting. Next year those Freshmen will have moved up and might attend again like their freshmen year. The new freshman might pick up the same tradition and so on. As the years go by and a team does better within the expected up and downs you might see some better attendance by the students.

Telling them they have to attend the games or they cant have parties to celebrate the occasion seems to suggest that the Football games are a requirement on their college degree not cherished event with their Alma Mater. The next step they will be implementing when this doesn't work is requiring students to attend the games to graduate, 30 Football Game credit hours minimum anyone.

JS
JS

Why not just shut down tailgating 10 minutes before kickoff?  That way you get everyone to the party and then they hopefully will trek into the stadium for the game if they can't stay out drinking.

Guest
Guest

I'm all about some college football. BUT you can't punish students for not attending a football game or bully them into attending a football game. That's asinine.

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

When I was at SMU we played in the Cotton Bowl and Texas Stadium. Many came on beer buses (drinking age was 18).  Sometimes a large crowd of students would leave at halftime to go to the beer bus. But most of them came back. Then again there was that time a  Lambda Chi I knew was running and jumping on the tops of the buses...

MattL1
MattL1

Curtailing or taking away tailgating doesn't improve attendance for games in my experience.  Instead, it creates animosity towards the school among the students.  Why would you want to support your school when it doesn't respect you?  Consistently put a quality product on the field and the students will come.  

Nick R.
Nick R.

Buddy Garrity usually gets what he wants, but he does get better in season 4

Ed D.
Ed D.

President Kennedy said, 'Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the Moon... We choose to go to the Moon and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard."

Jim
Jim

Ya right...SMU students don't wear Hollister (unless there from Plano)...good try though.

scottindallas
scottindallas

not sure UT belongs in that vaunted category.

SMUer
SMUer

They don't allow re-entry into Ford stadium for starters...

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