In the most highly anticipated matchup at Camp Randall post-COVID, the Wisconsin student section once again disappointed.
The stands were not full at kickoff against the No. 3 team in the country, and did not fill up until halftime. Not a good look, but not a new issue.
Former head coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez attempted to overhaul the entrance process in 2018, but the problem remains for Chirs McIntosh and new head coach Luke Fickell – who addressed the problem in August.
But Saturday’s game was at 6:30 p.m. There is no blaming early kickoffs for this one. Students had all day to prepare — and pregame — for the game.
If the problem is not limited to early games, what can be done? Here are five solutions to get Camp Randall rocking at kickoff.
1. Quicken the trek to your seat
Camp Randall has a capacity of 80,321, with 14,000 tickets being set aside for students.
But of the 10 entrance gates, only one is for students. That means 17.4% of the fans are being packed into just 10% of the gates. An extra gate or two would allow for more students to enter the stadium at a smoother and more consistent stream.
As an added bonus, with less students per gate, security — now responsible for fewer people — will be more efficient, leading to a safer stadium.
Time from gate to seat also needs to be expedited. The long, often clogged trek to student seats is notoriously the main issue cited by those defending the empty student section, and with reported wait times of over 45 minutes this weekend, something needs to change.
Students are escorted in lines, one-by-one into sections, making security guards glorified babysitters.
Why can’t students walk themselves down?
Entrances into each section at Camp Randall are narrow and tight. Students squeeze together as they enter shoulder-to-shoulder with their classmates.
While the architecture of the stadium can’t change, the process sure can. At less populated games, students don’t need to be squeezed in as tightly as possible, which improves optics and comfort. Standing for three hours is already miserable for those who aren’t football fans, so getting rid of the lengthy walk-in time is worth it.
2. Make it harder to get tickets
Freshmen line up outside of Gordon’s because there are no seats. Students lined up 7 hours before a massive basketball matchup against Purdue in March 2022. Scarcity makes things feel special.
Right now, students can buy tickets online at a relatively low price, and resellers run rampant from the day of purchase, often selling tickets at more than double the price immediately after they acquire them.
Why sell tickets to those who don’t want them? Wisconsin football should make it more difficult for students who don’t actually want to use tickets to buy them. Whether it be prioritizing by class standing, giving tickets to those who attend the spring game or having an early morning box office, Badger athletics should be actively accommodating actual football fans rather than the entire campus if they want to fill their stadium.
Making it harder to resell tickets would also help. Currently, students can very easily transfer via email or screenshots of their ticket’s QR code. If they made a limited timeframe in which students could transfer tickets, it would make them feel more valuable. The harder it is to get a ticket, the more people will want to go to the game.
3. Assign seats at the entrance
The Kohl Center does it, why can’t Camp Randall?
Students already get assigned a section when they enter, surely a seat to go with it wouldn’t hurt. Not only would this get students to their seats in a more expedited manner, but it would allow for trips to the concession stand without the worry of losing your front row seat to a stranger. Seats and rows are already numbered, and security would thank the athletic department for making their job easier.
The added bonus of being able to go to the bathroom without having to worry about your spot being taken would surely entice quite a few students to both listen to their bladders and stick around post Jump Around.
4. A better pregame show
With all due respect to the UW Marching Band’s “If You Want to be a Badger” and the Bucky Wagon, experiencing them for the fifth time this season and the fifteenth time in my tenure as a student simply does not excite me anymore. Change it up a little!
The homecoming committee does an excellent job putting on a pregame show that is simply unmatched to any other game of the season. Yet at Saturday’s important night game against Ohio State, the most exciting part of waiting for kickoff was listening to a couple argue next to me.
A t-shirt cannon, some new covers from the band or even music from DJay Mando would be a welcome addition to the pregame show. Establishing some sort of pregame tradition like Virginia Tech’s “Enter Sandman,” would be even better (sorry pregame video). Many students aren’t there for the game, but they are there for “Jump Around.” If you give them a reason to show up early, they just might.
5. WE WANT MORE…
This one is self-explanatory. Every Badger loves themselves a silly little drink, and no drink is sillier at a football game than a beer.
As if the student section wasn’t already full of shooters and feral little monsters, I can guarantee that this will keep them louder for longer.
Obviously, the university doesn’t want students drinking underage, but we all know it happens regardless, so keep a strict ID policy and charge exorbitant amounts for the product. In August, the university announced it would sell alcohol at both the Kohl Center and LaBahn Arena. In February, it was reported that the University of Tennessee sold over $3.3 million in beer during the 2022 season. It’s a no brainer for the UW and for its pockets.
So give the student section what they’ve been requesting for years: BEER.
Tomer Ronen is a junior studying journalism and economics. Do you agree the Athletics Department needs to rethink Camp Randall’s student section? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org