Austin Zouzalik says there are times when, even as a Lubbock native, he forgets just how much of an impact the team he plays for has on his hometown. He forgets how many emotions are connected to how his team performs on the field each Saturday in the fall.
“Sometimes we lose sight of what Tech football means to this community,” the senior inside receiver said, “what it means to the people. You can kind of see it on their faces.”
Zouzalik and teammate Eric Ward got to see some of those faces Tuesday evening, when they made stops around the city to visit with season-ticket holders and plant signs in their yard, signaling the approach of a season now less than two months away.
The promotional tour was part of Tech’s efforts to meet a goal of 36,000 season tickets sold, according to Tech ticket sales manager Tommy Heppler.
So far, Heppler said, his department has sold 29,000 season tickets — not including 12,500 that are held for Tech students — for the 2012 campaign. The schedule includes marquee home games against Texas, Oklahoma and new Big 12 foe West Virginia.
Heppler said that number is about 2,800 units ahead of where Tech was in its sales efforts at the same time last year.
The numbers seem to indicate that anticipation of a turnaround is outweighing trepidation following a disappointing 5-7 finish a season ago.
“The only thing I can say,” Heppler said, “is that it’s a new season.”
Cory Needham, whose house was the first to be visited Tuesday, said that while blowout defeats like the ones Tech suffered to Iowa State and Oklahoma State were tough to watch, he never considered not renewing the season tickets he and his wife Kristin have had since 2006.
“Not at all,” he said. “I’m used to the ups and downs. ... I’m always excited. We just have so much fun at the games.”
Zouzalik said the Red Raiders aren’t taking similar enthusiasm from other fans — or the promising ticket-sales figures — for granted. The team, he said, believes it owes fans more after a home schedule in 2011 that featured only two victories, none of which came during Big 12 Conference play.
“The coaches are always (reminding us) we played terrible at home,” Zouzalik said. “These fans deserve to see better during home games. It’s nice to see people still buying season tickets. They said we’re a little bit ahead of where we were last year at this point. It’s nice to come out here and see people who aren’t fair-weather fans. These people are committed.”
Ward, Tech’s leading receiver last season with 84 catches for 800 yards and 11 touchdowns, said the Red Raiders have applied similar commitment to summer workouts, and the team is anxious to report to fall camp on Aug. 5.
When the Sept. 1 kickoff rolls around, Ward believes the fans will be in for a far different experience than 2011 offered.
“This year, our main objective,” he said, “is to protect the Jones and give our fans what they want.”
To comment on this story: