Here's a novel idea: listening to a college football player. Do it once in a while and you'll probably find some college athletes have enlightening things to say.
Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs had something to say Monday evening—many things, actually. But it wasn't about paying athletes or making them university employees. Rather, it was about student attendance.
Diggs took to Twitter to vent about a recent post from ESPN's Jake Trotter ranking the top student sections in the Big 12. Texas was nowhere to be found. According to ESPN's Max Olson, that wasn't an oversight.
We didn't spend much time considering Texas for our top 5. The reputation is what it is. When players notice, that says something.— Max Olson (@max_olson) February 18, 2014
Rather than complain to ESPN, though, Diggs took a stand against his own school.
Let the students scan their ID's n when the gates open it's first come first served just like other schools use that have high student att.— Quandre Diggs (@qdiggs6) February 18, 2014
The students really shouldn't have to pay for tickets because they pay enough for school to be real.— Quandre Diggs (@qdiggs6) February 18, 2014
It's no way we shouldn't have the most students attending sports events we have 51K students!— Quandre Diggs (@qdiggs6) February 18, 2014
And put the students closer to the field, we can't hear them when they're in the upper deck! Move some of those people that don't clap...— Quandre Diggs (@qdiggs6) February 18, 2014
.. and cheer move them out the stadium cause they really are the first ones leaving when something bad happens.— Quandre Diggs (@qdiggs6) February 18, 2014
I'll never forget watching K State students line up at the student gate and literally run in the stadium to be the first ones there.— Quandre Diggs (@qdiggs6) February 18, 2014
College football has an attendance problem. With each passing season, more and more pictures of half-empty stadiums minutes before kickoff reaffirm that.
Texas isn't immune to it, either. Taylor Gaspar of Orangebloods.com and B/R snapped this photo of Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium last September just 16 minutes before the Longhorns kicked off against Kansas State.
Texas was 1-2 at the time, coming off back-to-back blowouts at the hands of BYU and Ole Miss. Combine the poor record with high ticket prices and it's hard to motivate fans—students or otherwise—to go to the game.
When it specifically comes to Texas students, attendance can also be about value. Texas' athletic website says the Longhorn All-Sports Package (LASP) is the "most economical way for UT students, faculty and staff to gain access to all University of Texas regular season ticketed home sporting events."
The key word is "access." Only $80 for the regular school year, students are eligible for the LASP ticket draw, which works on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students can also upgrade to season tickets for an extra $70. "Therefore, for $150, a student can secure a guaranteed reserved ticket to all home games," the athletic department website states.
Of course, Texas can't force students who do show up to the game to be loud and proud. That's on the student. Nor is it likely Texas will ever move the student sections closer to the field. It's all about the highest possible dollar. Still, by pre-distributing single-game tickets, there's no incentive for students to show up to the game early for premium seats.
If Texas is serious about changing the culture of its home games—Diggs' tweets are, at their core, more about that anyway—it starts with the students (freshmen, specifically).
Diggs may not have the most feasible solution, but he brings up a good point. Sometimes, that's where change starts.
All Texas has to do is listen.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football.