With the return of head coach Kliff Kingsbury and an unbeaten, nationally ranked football team, Texas Tech’s student attendance is booming.
Tech, with an average of 13,750 students streaming through the Jones AT&T Stadium turnstiles this season, trails only Texas in student attendance within the Big 12 Conference. However, the Red Raiders’ student attendance relative to percentage capacity is the best in the league at 109 percent — the percentage allocated for students.
“It’s a great atmosphere to be a part of,” junior Reed Mankins said. “Kingsbury bringing back a lot of spark has made it even better. Having an impact on the game is pretty neat.”
Tech’s student support is not unique within the Big 12. A-J Media surveyed the other nine universities in the league and found student attendance to be up at most of the other schools as well.
The student capacity in Jones AT&T Stadium is listed as 12,577, but Tech officials decided this week to allocate more seats for students the rest of the season.
The Tech athletic department announced Tuesday via Twitter that Section 13, usually reserved for the visiting band, will now be a part of the student section for the remainder of this season.
“I really enjoy the camaraderie among the students,” graduate student Shelby Winn said. “It’s a great opportunity to see the true Red Raider spirit come alive in each and every one of us. I grew up not too far from Lubbock so my family and I came to games regularly.
“I always had a taste of what it was to be a Red Raider and now I’ve had my own experience that I can’t wait to share with my kids in the future. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a part of the student section that’s nationally known?”
Tech’s Sept. 12 home game against TCU did not sell out, but a school single-game record turnout of 16,092 students both helped the team to a victory and showed the nation how crazy the game-day atmosphere can be in Lubbock.
“It’s been incredible,” Kingsbury said. “That student section, I’ve never seen one like it. Hopefully they’ll keep coming. I know our players feel that to have their peers in the stands cheering for them goes a long way for them. It really shows what Texas Tech is all about to have that kind of school spirit.”
Back in July at Big 12 media days, Kingsbury addressed the excitement surrounding the program but pointed out his team was still undefeated.
Three months later, the Red Raiders remain unbeaten and have Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Kansas State left to host.
“We’ve talked a lot as a staff about protecting the Jones and making this a place where people don’t want to come in and play,” co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie said. “A big part of that is our fan support and how loud they are and how energetic they are.”
If this trend continues, Tech should obliterate its previous student attendance record — an average of 9,900 — set in 2009.
“It’s pretty incredible how many people come out there even before we’re warming up,” junior tight end Jace Amaro said. “I know it gets us fired up and it really helps us get ready for the game. It psyches the other team out.”
Fighting the living-room experience
Tech’s success rate with student attendance seems to be bucking a national trend.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal (http://tinyurl.com/lyhdal5), student attendance is down in the Southeastern Conference, the conference with the past seven BCS Championship teams.
Those quoted in the Wall Street Journal article complained about a lack of cellphone service within stadiums and the ease of watching a game elsewhere on a big screen rather than battling traffic to watch the game in person.
The Big 12, however, is another story.
Before the 2013 season kicked off, the Big 12 had a plan to battle the living-room experience.
“We play an exciting brand of football appealing to fans of all ages,” Big 12 Associate Commissioner Bob Burda said in a phone interview. “We’re competing with the living-room experience to entice people to come to our stadiums. We have made a concerted effort to implement enhancements for the in-stadium experience. We provide in-stadium highlights of other games around the country as well as within the conference. Wi-Fi providers presented to Big 12 athletic directors about connecting in stadiums so fans can fully engage with hand-held devices while they attend.”
By the numbers
Almost every school in the conference has an increased student attendance compared to last year, according to figures obtained by the Avalanche-Journal from each school’s athletic department.
Baylor, which has an unbeaten team and Oklahoma and Texas coming to Waco, has the potential to average more than 7,000 students for the first time in school history.
Iowa State sold out of its student season ticket allotment of 7,779 on Aug. 8. This year and the year prior are the only times the school has sold out of student season tickets.
After three home games, Kansas’ student attendance is up by an average of almost 400 per game.
Kansas State sold a school-record 9,600 student season tickets.
Once again, Oklahoma sold out of its student football tickets with about 8,000 student seats.
Oklahoma State is looking to break its student attendance record of 12,059 set in 2011. OSU’s current student attendance average is 10,990, and the Cowboys have home games left with TCU, Baylor, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Texas holds 19,000 tickets for students. All 19,000 have been taken in two of the Longhorns’ first three games, UT spokesman John Bianco said.
West Virginia is ahead of last year’s student attendance by 1,000, athletic department spokesman Matt Wells said.
TCU declined to provide specific figures.
In an email, TCU Assistant Athletics Director Mark Cohen said, “TCU receives tremendous support from its student body. We don’t have any type of official student attendance numbers or records.”
Explosive offense is the secret weapon
When asked why student attendance trends in the Big 12 are increasing while those in other conferences are decreasing, Burda said it all boils down to the type of offense Big 12 teams run.
“Looking over the recent history of the Big 12, it has been a very offensive-centric league,” Burda said. “Teams are scoring a lot of points by throwing the ball and featuring explosive offenses. That style of play is exciting to watch. If given a choice, fans want to see touchdowns being scored rather than watch a defensive game end in a score of 10-3.”
Follow Krista on Twitter
Student attendance trend
Team 2013 2012
Baylor 6,597 6,804
Iowa State 6,380 7,779
Kansas 4,299 3,936
Kansas State 6,847 7,700
Oklahoma 6,221 8,000
Oklahoma State 6,878 11,082
TCU NA NA
Texas 18,883 18,500 Texas Tech 13,750 9,763
West Virginia 9,395 8,845
2012 attendance figures are for full season; 2013 figures are through games of Oct. 5.
Here is the number of seats held for students in comparison to the maximum number of seats in the stadium
Team Stadium capacity Student capacity % to capacity
Baylor 50,000 8,173 16.0
Iowa St. 55,000 7,800 14.0
Kansas 50,071 8,400 17.0
Kan. St. 50,000 8,176 16.0
Okla. 82,112 8,500 10.0
Okla. St. 60,218 11,500 19.0
TCU NA NA NA
Texas 100,119 19,000 19.0
Tex. Tech 60,454 12,577 21.0
West Va. 60,000 12,500 21.0
Source: Each Big 12 university’s athletic department
Average attendance compared to student capacity
Team Average attendance Capacity % to capacity
Baylor 6,597 12,500 75
Iowa State 6,380 7,800 82
Kansas 4,299 8,400 51
Kansas St. 6,847 8,176 84
Oklahoma 6,221 8,500 73
Okla. St. 6,878 1 1,500 60
TCU NA NA NA
Texas 18,833 19,000 99
Texas Tech 13,750 12,577 109
West Va. 9,395 12,500 75
Source: Texas Tech athletics