Athletic department roots for attendance
Published: Friday, October 4, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 4, 2013 01:10
Half-empty stadiums are a familiar sight at many of the Miami University athletic events. Deputy Athletic Director Mark Rountree noted this problem and made it his goal to fix it when he began working at Miami last March.
The athletic department began several improvements including a revamp of the Red Alert reward system, accommodations at tailgate events and post game activities for all game attendees.
Rountree said he is hoping to make Miami athletics grow beyond just the games alone.
“When you go to a game, it’s more than just the game, it’s an event,” Rountree said. “And you go to the game because you have fun prior to it and have a great time after.”
Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing Anthony Azama said he wants students to see the advantages to including sporting events in their weekend activities.
“Fun, friends and football is what we want it to be about,” Azama said. “We want to be able to hold ourselves in regard of creating the best event on campus.”
According to Rountree, for the 2013 season Tailgate Town, the section of the Millet parking lot blocked off for football games, has been improved with the addition of a DJ, food vendors and a tent set up for students. Their hope is to attract students to athletic events to continue their normal weekend activities, while still supporting athletics.
“Students are having their tailgate parties and doing fun things on the weekends, they’re just not doing them down at the stadium,” Rountree said.
Azama is hopeful that a mutual pride as Miami students can also help to increase attendance.
“One of the beauties of everyone coming to a sporting event is that it’s one of the few times on campus when we’re all Miami Redhawks,” Azama said. “When is doesn’t matter what your major is, what part of the country you came from, we’re all cheering as one.”
Miami senior Dani Fraelick said she has desired more support for athletics since she began playing for the Miami Women’s Soccer team.
“I feel that a great part of being in college is having pride for your school and doing so supporting your school by attending athletic events,” Fraelick said.
Fraelick said winning has helped sports teams increase attendance in the past. Her own team won the MidAmerican Conference (MAC) conference championship last year, which showed an increase of support. She has also witnessed the hockey teams high attendance rates due to their national ranking.
However for Fraelick, an overall lack of awareness is what she believes might be missing.
“All too often, when telling people I am on the soccer team, some people don’t even know we have a women’s varsity team,” Fraelick said.
However, Azama said she has seen a significant amount of support for sports teams coming from fellow Miami athletes.
“Usually when we take pictures of the student section the whole front row of kids are teams leading in the support for games,” Azama said. “The good thing is the teams are starting to bring their friends.”
Azama said before each weekend of sports games begin, athletes spread the word around campus that events will be going on that weekend. Athletes not only explain game time and location, but also are talking about the improved tailgate town and student involvement opportunities in games.
Fraelick said she also has seen support from her fellow athletes at games and events.
“The athletic community is pretty tight-knit, so we support each other and want each other to do well,” Fraelick said.
Although it is a close community, Fraelick still hopes to see more attendance in the future.
“I believe there could be a better overall support for every team, not just the ‘big name’ teams or the sports that are popular,” Fraelick said.
Student rewards are something Azama said she believes can significantly increase attendance.
“We’ve also increased the promotions, like having a row in the stands winning a prize and making sure students know they can actually come on the football field after games for 30 minutes,” Azama said.
Rountree added that student athletes are part of Azama’s marketing team promoting games and Family Weekend as early as summer orientation.
Alcohol restrictions have been a factor deterring students from tailgating in the past, but Rountree said he does not believe this should be a major reason for a lack of attendance.