I have a surgery exam on Monday, which means I am sitting in a tiny projector room staring at powerpoints that I would rather not be. Which leads to me getting bored and rooting around on Twitter during my breaks. Every now and then, that leads to finding something that entertains me. Illinois football managed to top that tonight.
This. One thousand freaking times, this. Do you see how happy that guy in the 14 jersey and helmet is? It's fantastic. The University of Illinois has a massive international student population. The vast majority of those students have little to no idea about the nuances and rules of American football, giving them zero incentive to attend a Fighting Illini football game. How do you change that? You reach out to them.
I would love it if the university took things one step further: give international students free tickets to a game. There's no guarantee that they'll become diehard fans or even attend or watch another game of Illinois football afterwards. But maybe they will and maybe they do. And if that happens? Congratulations, you've just built yourself a wonderful and enthusiastic new fan base to help fill and energize a stadium in dire need of it.
There's no sugar-coating it: attendance at Memorial Stadium has been bad for the past few years and I do not blame the students or the fans. The team has been pretty awful and unless you absolutely love football or the Illini, that's pretty strong incentive not to go. I hate attendance shaming. It's your money and your free time, spend it however you want. The only thing that's going to completely fill the stadium again is a football program that can consistently win. But short of that, they can start reaching out to the students. No one likes an empty student section. Give incoming freshmen tickets to the season opener. Give international students tickets to a Big Ten game. The onus is on you to win back the fan base. Moves like this can do nothing but help.