New athletic director David Benedict has already started shaking things up for the fall sports season. Buses to football games are now free of charge to students, courtesy of SUBOG. Lots at the stadium will be opened earlier this year, increasing the time people can tailgate. There is also a newly designed student tailgating lot, where parking is available at a discounted rate. And, as a way to introduce new students on campus to the University of Connecticut, freshman football tickets are free for the first game and complimentary BBQ will be offered prior to kickoff.
These changes all aim to incentivize students to attend the games during the fall as well as improve the overall experiences of those who do go. This is important, as it shows the athletic director and others in the department are focusing on getting students and other fans excited to go to the games. Offering free transportation should really benefit those without a car on campus. Coupled with discounted parking, students will not have to stretch their pocketbooks just to attend games. A longer tailgating time and a new lot will make the whole game day package more enjoyable for students.
Encouraging freshmen to attend games, especially early in the season, is also a welcome sign. New students sometimes need a push in the right direction to try new experiences and making something free is an effective way of accomplishing this. If many who seize this opportunity enjoy the game, then turnout should increase and maybe some lifelong fans will be born. Increased turnout can pay off in a number of ways, one of which being that it will improve the overall atmosphere of the games.
Hopefully these changes and goals will be cyclical as making the games more attractive to attend will bring in more students, which will then improve the atmosphere and encourage people to keep coming back. Through these modifications, the athletic director has shown that he understands something very important: Athletics is not only about the sport itself. An incredibly important aspect is the fans. That doesn’t just mean encouraging them to go, but also creating a fun and exciting environment for everyone to enjoy. When you are able to tailgate for hours on end or you have the stadium full and cheering at a critical moment, that is what creates incredible memories and what keeps people coming back for more. The athletic director is clearly committed to improving this part of the UConn athletic experience.