When “never losing a party” is a fundamental part of our culture, it shouldn’t be surprising that Ole Miss is willing to exploit it. The university has spent years establishing our famous culture of tailgating in the Grove, and we’ve done it so well that many fans will skip the game but not the tailgate. Now, it seems the university wants to bring the tailgate into the stadium, which, to me, sounds like a desperate last-attempt plea for ticket sales.
According to olemisssports.com, the new party decks will provide more “in-game social opportunities for the student body.” There is no surprise that Ole Miss has brought a pre-game-esque atmosphere to combat declining ticket sales and student attendance within the stadium. One has to think: Is this really a step in the right direction? You cannot blame the university for trying to bring a more social atmosphere to the game in order to boost student attendance. However, are the comfort of the Grove and lack of alcohol the only things keeping students out of the game?
Let’s be honest, the student section being directly in the sunlight causes less than favorable conditions, and who’s going to stay to watch a football team that is not performing well? Would you rather watch a game in the cool of a Grove tent, or sit in direct line of sweltering Mississippi heat? The choice is obvious. You can’t argue with the facts. Since the student section moved to the north end zone, ticket sales have steadily declined.
The athletics’ department is ignoring the root cause of ticket sales and attendance decline, and they are instead creating a Grove-like atmosphere where students can continue the “never losing a party” mentality. According to saturdaydownsouth.com, Keith Carter, Ole Miss interim athletics director, has said, “students are absolutely critical in creating a home field advantage at the Vaught, and we look forward to giving them an experience that makes them want to get there early and stay until the end.” I agree that students are a critical part of boosting team morale, but this leaves the question: How many students will actually attend games because of these party decks?
According to numbers released by the NCAA, the average home game attendance has fallen for four consecutive years. The installation of these student party decks seems more like a desperate cry for attendance than a student luxury.
Sophia Meruvia is a sophomore integrated marketing communications major from Philadelphia, Mississippi.