This morning, I took it upon myself to survey over 30 students across UTEP’s campus and see where they stand on the whole dilemma on the UTEP football student attendance problem. Against North Texas, UTEP posted its lowest attendance since 1993 with 12,809 fans in the Sun Bowl.

Many of the responses varied person to person. Some were involved in multiple organizations, making it easy for them to get a group together to go to the games. Others found tailgating and pre-party events to be more enticing than going to games. Some blamed UTEP’s 0-18 record, saying they would rather watch “exciting” games on the national level.

Of the 32 surveys I conducted, about 60 percent of the students I talked with have not gone to a game this season, while 40 percent had.

 

Here are some of the reasons students have chosen to go to the games:

  • “I go to support my boyfriend on the football team.”
  • “I answered yes, but I only really stay for like ten minutes tops for the food.”
  • “I go to the games because I go to the tailgates so might as well go to the game. But I always leave the game early because I know UTEP is going to lose. I would probably stay if I believed there was even a chance for us to win.”
  • “Friends go and I want to be supportive.”
  • “I went the the first game just to hang out with friends, not to watch UTEP lose another game.”
  • “Not lying or trying to be funny, but I go to pick up chicks on my way from the tailgate to the game.”
  • “Because they’re a lot of fun and we should support our teams.”
  • “I go to see the Gold Diggers perform.”
  • “I was required to go for my sorority.”
  • “I went, but left halfway because it was not fun.”

Here are some of the reasons students don’t go:

  • “I’m having too much fun at the tailgate.”
  • “Because I’m not going to go spend 2 hours of my life watching the UTEP team struggle to work as a team and not be able to win a game. The biggest issue is there is no culture built around it like at other schools. There’s no incentive to go.”
  • “Because we do not win.” (I got this answer more than 10 times)
  • “When I grew up, my family forced me to go to all the games as a kid and I hated football back then. I’ve always really hated football so why waste my time going?”
  • “I see all my friends go off to big schools, like Texas or Arizona State, and see how much fun they have at games and it makes me sad knowing we will never be like that here at UTEP. The school doesn’t do anything for the student life here at UTEP. They constantly put ridiculous regulations on tailgating rules that seem to pop out of nowhere. Meanwhile, my friends at big schools are getting the best gameday experience of their lives. There’s no reason for me to support this sad joke of a program.”
  • “UTEP football has regressed a lot and there are usually better games on TV.”
  • “I’m usually busy those days.”
  • “Because of the lack of school spirit.”
  • “They suck.”
  • “The team doesn't win games and there’s a lack of football atmosphere.”
  • “I go to the tailgates before the game and I always get too drunk so I never make it to the games.”
  • “I’d rather be doing something else.”
  • “I lost my student ID and we don't win any games so what's the point? Also everyone just keeps tailgating.”
  • “I’m too ‘tired’ [drunk] from the tailgate.”
  • “First off, the team’s losing streak; second the lack of NFL potential, there’s no superstars on the team. And the tailgates are too fun so I don’t make it to the game.”
  • “I grew up going to the games with my family and watched some of the greats like Jordan Palmer and Johnnie Lee Higgins. Those were the true UTEP football days. From growing up and seeing that, and now seeing what kind of team we have now, why should I go? I’ve tried and tried to like this team and be positive, but they’ve been consistently bad for so long, so why even bother?”

So then I asked the students, what’s the solution for you to come to games. I received over 10 responses that simply said “win.”:

  • “Win.”
  • “End tailgates sooner so people can go to the game.”
  • “Do something to actually make students have school pride. You walk around campus and you see way more other college t-shirts than actual UTEP shirts. That’s bizarre to me.”
  • “I think if the football team would go on a winning streak, students would want to go. It’s hard to support a losing team.”
  • “Win more games, and have a more fun, like a unified atmosphere.”
  • “Free stuff and cheaper snacks.”
  • “I don’t see it changing. UTEP does nothing for its students in terms of growing school pride. Many will leave UTEP not ever caring what happens to the school or program. It’s a place to get a degree and go home.”
  • “Make games more exciting.”
  • “Let’s us tailgate in better places and have them actually win games.”
  • “Not suck.”
  • “Win games and improve the atmosphere.”
  • “Not make students register to go to the games. Some genuinely forget and don’t do it in time for the game.”
  • “Promote more support and excitement toward the student section.”
  • “Winning games is the main pull factor that would make me go to the games along with other students. They’re complaining about how attendance would make a difference, but how do you seriously expect me to go watch 20 straight games of the team I’m rooting for losing? Just win at least one game and I promise some of the community would start showing up more.”
  • “More incentives like giveaways for people in the student section.”
  • “I’m not sure how they bring more students, but honestly it’s depressing going to that side of the stadium where no one is there and still having to go anyways.”
  • “Make some cool student section t-shirts maybe?”
  • “We just need more involvement around campus with events that will appeal to the students. If there’s a strong student presence on campus then they’re will be a great outcome at games. I do believe that UTEP losing games is a factor but it’s because the students are disconnected with the team. I’m not in a personal context but the crowd and team relationship is not what it should be when you compare it to other universities.”

Here are my five takeaways from their responses:

  1. Just about every student at UTEP has been to at least one football game in their lifetime.
  2. Even those students that are going to the games, for the majority, aren’t having a good fan experience.
  3. Students on the fence about going to games usually tend to either go for a brief amount of time or not go at all.
  4. Now that students have more access to primetime college football games, some would rather watch the bigger games than watch UTEP play.
  5. UTEP students are really lacking in school pride, which is a huge detriment to the future. Eventually, these students will graduate, some will get jobs across the city and start a family here. If they never went to games as a student, what makes you think they would buy tickets as an adult with their families? When we talk about UTEP attendance 20 years from now, it could look far more grim than now.