As you can see, typical student support at Vanderbilt games lately hasn't exactly been spectacular. Students at Vanderbilt haven't always been so consistent in their lack of support. Certainly there's an argument to be made that winning begets fan support, and clearly the football team struggled this season in that department. But as winning leads to more fans, so too do more fans lead to more winning, leaving us with a nasty catch-22.
What to do about it? I'm glad you asked.
My modest proposal will be based on basketball, but it could easily be adapted for football or baseball. Let me begin by saying that fan support for basketball is far from poor. In fact, the students do a relatively good job (compared to football) showing up to all the games. In fact, the "Belle Meade Section" (A-F) of Memorial is often more sparsely populated than the student section. That said, student attendance is still a far cry from what it used to be prior to the JVBK coaching years, when the student section (and the rest of the gym, overall) was a sellout for every game of the season.
These days during the pre-conference portion of the schedule, the student section fluctuates from half full to three-quarters full, depending on opponent. The schedule is particularly strong this season (and the team is particularly good) and the student section was about 75% full for the lone home game thus far versus Lipscomb. I will be interested to see how full the student section is for the Missouri game tomorrow night.
So what can be done to ensure even more attendance? My proposal is pretty simple. Since the school has the capability of using student ids to measure student attendance, why not tie the attendance to the non-conference games to admission to the SEC opponents later in the season?
For example, TSU currently is the lowest ranked (260, Pomeroy) opponent scheduled to play at Memorial this season. What if the school tied the attendance to the TSU game with the Kentucky or Tennessee home game later in the season? Since there are guaranteed to be more students wishing to attend the UK or UT game than there will be student tickets available, why not reward the students who attended the TSU game with UK or UT ticket priority over those who chose not to attend? Next find the next-least-appealing non-conference opponent, and match the attendance to that game with priority for the next-most-appealing home conference game. And so on, and so forth. Of course, concessions must be made for thanksgiving and "winter" break.
Finally, implementing this system wouldn't necessarily be that difficult, thanks to technology that's already in place at the university.
In my eyes, this system would go a long way to encouraging consistently high student fan support. Considering that the students are among the most vocal fans at any Vanderbilt sporting event (particularly basketball), and considering that the school cannot really do any more to encourage fans in the "Belle Meade Section" to attend (other than perhaps to increase local advertising), adding vocal fans can help create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Thoughts? I'd love to hear some other ideas in the comments...