Two years ago, the Student Government Association proposed a bill that would deal with the issue of low attendance at home football games for the 2015 season.

That bill would effectively cut the amount of seats reserved for students in half, reducing it from 8,000 to the current number of 4,500 and giving those seats to the public.

However, this did not entirely solve the problem and hundreds of seats go unfilled in the student section each game. There is no clear answer to the issue of students claiming tickets for games and not using them.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” UNC Charlotte Athletic Director Judy Rose said. “We’d gladly give [the seats] back or provide them if that became a need. Our goal is to fill the stadium, that’s it. Whether it is students in the seat or paying people, we want the atmosphere in here to be as such that nobody wants to come in here and play us.”

There is a discrepancy between tickets that are claimed and tickets that are actually used come game time. During the first four home games this season, an average of 54.6 percent of students who ordered tickets used them. There are still two home games left in the season and there is room for this average to increase or decrease. After the 49ers win against Marshall, Rose hopes that this will encourage more attendance for the final two games.

“We haven’t had the big wins at home for students to see or our other fans … but that is a very big win for our program,” Rose said. “ So will that impact attendance? I’m hoping it will.”

Students cheer during the Homecoming Game against Florida International University. Photo by Chris Crews.
Students cheer during the Homecoming Game against Florida International University. Photo by Chris Crews.

The average percentage of student ticket usage has dropped steadily since the programs first game in 2013. This means that the gap of tickets claimed versus tickets used is only growing wider.

According to statistics kept by 49er Athletics, in 2013, the average ticket usage for the year was 66.9 percent. In 2014, the percentage dropped to 6 percent. In 2015, the average dropped to 56.4 percent. However, the number of tickets used at home games are on the rise from last year’s numbers and the year before that. In 2013, an average of 2,500 tickets were used for each home game, this number grew to 3,059 in 2015 and again to the current average of 3,531 for the current season with two games remaining.

“The number of people that are actually going [to games] is higher than last year on average, so we’re going in the right direction there,” Associate Athletic Director for Ticket and Facility Operations John George said.

The game with the most student attendance of this season was the first home game against Elon. Students claimed well over the 4,000 seat limit, ordering 7,857 tickets, but only 4,648 tickets were actually used. In comparison, the lowest recorded student attendance for the current season was the game against Old Dominion University. Students ordered 4,518 tickets, but only 2,055 were used.

The lowest attended home football game in UNC Charlotte’s young football program was the 2014 game against Coastal Carolina University where only 1,329 students attended the game.

These numbers include student guest tickets as well. Guest tickets are available for a discount and limited. Students can have up to two guest tickets depending on availability.

The first 49er Athletics home game against Campbell in 2013 had the highest recorded student attendance of any game in any season. Of the 7,785 tickets claimed, 5,911 tickets were used equaling 75.9 percent.

Student tickets ordered (solid) versus tickets used (dashes) since the first season. Graphic by Michael Kuhn.
Average number of student tickets ordered (solid) versus tickets used (dashes) per year. Graphic by Michael Kuhn.

“The first year was our absolute best year,” Rose said.

When SGA had originally proposed the Student Seating Allocation bill for the 2015 season, the draft had included a penalty system for students who claimed tickets, but did not use them. However, there is no such system currently being enforced by athletics. This is mainly because the demand for student tickets at football games has not reached a point that would warrant a penalty system be put in place.

“It really comes down to supply and demand as to why the penalty phase hasn’t been implemented,” George said. “Because the demand has not warranted a penalty structure, it really hasn’t been activated.”

Since UNC Charlotte’s first football game in 2013, the demand has never been such that a student would be denied entry to the stadium on game day. However, if a penalty system were to be implemented, this would most likely be the reason why.

“Where a penalty system could come into play is if you get a ticket and don’t use it and this affects another student from getting into the game, that’s where the penalty could be,” George said.

Penalties could be either loyalty points based or there could be a system where if a student has claimed tickets for a game and fails to show on multiple occasions during a season, then they could lose their privileges for the rest of that season.

The NCAA requires that, for televised games, there be a minimum of 15,000 people in attendance. For UNC Charlotte, that means having at least that many students and paying attendants in the 15,300 capacity stadium. Since the student section has only averaged 23.5 percent of the minimum requirement, the rest of the unfilled seats go to the general public.

“Students pay a student fee and we certainly want [students] to be at the games, but if they’re not going to come, then we need to sell those tickets and get people in those seats,” Rose said.

As long as tickets were purchased for at least a third of their full price, then the people who own those tickets do not need to be present at the game for their attendance to count. However, students must be in their seats if they are to count towards the 15,000 attendance minimum. Despite the lack of student attendance, UNC Charlotte does meet the 15,000 requirement.

Update: This article has been updated to reflect the correct policy regarding guest tickets at home football games.

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Nick Cropper is the News Editor for the Niner Times. Currently, he is a senior pursuing a major in PR and a minor in journalism. Although he has lived in Charlotte for close to four years now, he is originally from Maryland. Contact him at news@ninertimes.com for questions or if you want to pitch a potential story.

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