Though it may only be for a single game, the University of Illinois is finally handing out some free football tickets. The athletic department’s latest promotion will provide students with an opportunity to claim two complimentary tickets to the team’s September 3 opener against Murray State. There’s a limited supply, obviously, so click here to claim them if you’re interested.
"This partnership with Deloitte will allow many of our students to take advantage of the atmosphere inside of Memorial Stadium for the first game of the Coach Smith era. We appreciate the commitment Deloitte has made as an employer of Illinois graduates and as a provider of a great student experience at an Illinois football game."
~ Josh Whitman, Illinois AD
This is a fantastic idea because, while Block I has been a great student section, attendance in the north end zone has left a lot to be desired in recent years. The actual on-field product has likely been a primary cause behind this lack of interest, but I believe there may be another big reason.
I was heavily involved with the basketball and football student sections two years ago and, in my experience, attendance rates for new students were usually quite high. Unfortunately, participation decreased drastically for upperclassmen (especially for football) because going to the games wasn’t considered the ‘cool’ thing to do. Once members join fraternities and sororities — Illinois has the largest Greek population in the country — the campus bars become the place to be and, frankly, I don’t envision that changing in the near future. To be clear I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that, either. It’s just how the community has evolved over time. I mean, as a 21-year that’s about to start his senior year, I can indeed confirm that the bars are #fun.
It’s the athletic department’s responsibility to give students a reason to care, and it seems they’re finally taking that role seriously. Prior to this deal, the program was already offering the cheapest student ticket package in the Big Ten ($60), and Grange Grove has provided tailgating lots just mere feet away from Memorial Stadium.
So I really hope this new "watch us score 500 points against a bad team for free" pitch works. Filling the stands would be great, sure, but perhaps it could further incentivize similar promotions in the future.