Student Attendance Breaking National Trend At Texas Tech|
Oct. 10, 2013
By Travis Cram, Athletics Communications
LUBBOCK, Texas -- When Kliff Kingsbury was named the head coach on Dec. 12, there was no doubt excitement was returning to Texas Tech football for the 2013 season.
An overnight pour of record donations to the Red Raider Club proved just that within 24 hours of hiring the former quarterback. And when Kingsbury returned for his homecoming on Sept. 8 vs. Stephen F. Austin - the students were already turning out in record numbers.
"Our student section right now - I've never seen one like it," Kingsbury said. "Hopefully they'll keep coming. I know our players feel that. To have their peers in the stands cheering for them, that goes a long way with them and it really shows what Texas Tech is all about to have that kind of school spirit."
Texas Tech has gone against a national trend or "issue" in college football with student attendance declining at most institutions over the last few seasons.
According to a recent study by The Wall Street Journal, even a program such as the University of Alabama, who's won three of the last four national titles, has seen a lack of student attendance at football games. Alabama reported only 68 percent of its student seats were used between 2009 and 2012, prompting head coach Nick Saban to publish a letter to students recently to try and bring them back to games.
And the seats don't always go unused. The University of Georgia, according to the same study, reassigned 2,000 seats normally reserved for students to be purchased by young alumni for the 2013 season.
But that's not the case at Texas Tech. While others are reassigning student seats to be purchased, Tech is doing the exact opposite - finding more room for students each week. The athletics ticket office recently added another section of seats to be used by students for Saturday's game against Iowa State in hopes of breaking the single-game student attendance record for the third time this season.
The first home game had 14,915 students in attendance, breaking the record of 12,910 set in the 2010 home opener. Then the very next week in a Thursday night game against TCU, featured on national television, the students showed up in record fashion once again - 16,092.
"It's pretty incredible how many people come out there, even before we are warming up," tight end Jace Amaro said. "It gets us fired up and really helps us get ready for the game and it psyches the other team out when you have almost 20,000 students just yelling at them on the sidelines the whole game."
Tech now sits with an average of 13,750 students in attendance at the first three home games, which is 109 percent capacity for having only 12,577 students seats allocated. That number leads the Big 12 Conference in student attendance in percent to capacity, according to the information gathered by the Tech athletics ticket office.
Texas is at 99 percent, followed by Kansas State (84 percent), Iowa State (82 percent), Baylor (81 percent), West Virginia (75 percent), Oklahoma (73 percent), Oklahoma State (60 percent) and Kansas (51 percent). TCU did not report any numbers.
Tech's current average of 13,750 students per game is on pace to shatter the single-season student attendance record by more than 4,000 with three home games remaining against Iowa State (Oct. 12), Oklahoma State (Nov. 2) and Kansas State (Nov. 9).
That number would prove to be pretty impressive for a home football schedule that did not feature a game against Texas or Oklahoma - the two highest attended games annually - for the first time since 1995.
The average student attendance is up almost 4,000 students per game from last season as Tech finished the year with an average of 9,763.
A big part may be an even bigger connection to not just the student-athletes but also the football coaching staff that features six alumni, including Kingsbury. Co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, co-offensive coordinator Eric Morris, linebackers coach Mike Smith, cornerbacks coach Kevin Curtis and special teams coordinator and safeties coach Trey Haverty all played football at Tech and know the importance of having the students in attendance to support the team each game.
"We've talked a lot, as a staff, about protecting The Jones and making this a place where people don't want to come in a play," Cumbie said. "A big part of that is our fan support and how loud they are and how energetic they are.
"It's an 11 a.m. game but we fully expect them to come early, to be loud and we really appreciate it because I think our kids are the ones that benefit from it the most. They support our players and as peers, that says something. When they come to the football games for our guys. That's one of the biggest things that we're encouraged by is that all the hard work our guys are putting into it that they are being supported so well."