By Maleesa Johnson
The Baylor Bears’ record-setting season has created an influx of students at The Case.
The homecoming game against Iowa State produced the second-largest student crowd Floyd Casey Stadium has ever had, with 8,900 students attending. This is just behind the 2011 University of Texas game, where 9,000 students showed up.
“The great news is 8,900 students took tickets to the game,” said Nick Joos, executive associate athletics director for external affairs. “That’s about 75 percent of the undergraduate student population at Baylor. That is really cool. Imagine if 75 percent of the undergraduate student body at UT or Texas A&M University came to the game. They wouldn’t have enough room for them.”
In the midst of this popularity in Baylor football, some students had to leave the game because of overcrowding. Joos said three different issues caused this problem.
The first issue was that of alumni sitting in the student section. Though they had tickets to sit in a different section.
“When that happens — and I’ve seen people who have admitted that they have done that — it causes a chain reaction because obviously those people shouldn’t be there,” Joos said.
Joos’ second hypothesis relates to a similar issue. He said in the past assigned seats were not taken as seriously because many people would not show up.
“In past years when there hadn’t been as many people in the stands, you could spread out and it wouldn’t have mattered if someone was supposed to be sitting next to you because that person wasn’t going to be there, but now they are there,” Joos said.
Joos said the third and biggest issue at the last game was the lack of melt in student tickets. A melt generally occurs when fewer students attend the game than actually received tickets. Joos said the average melt has been between 500 and 1,000 unused tickets in years past.
“In this situation, 8,900 students is the amount that took tickets for the game and if the natural melt that has been happening would have occurred — which I don’t think it did — there wouldn’t have been any problem,” Joos said. “However, that melt didn’t necessarily occur and all of those things created the perfect storm.”
Joos said he encourages students to pick up their tickets early for the next games.
Ticket pickup starts Oct. 31 in the Bill Daniel Student Center, a week before the game against the University of Oklahoma on Nov. 7. This would allow Baylor athletics to make certain adjustments based on expected attendance.
This includes the removal of the “This is Bear Country” tarp at the south end zone.
“If all of the tickets for the Iowa state game would have been picked by Tuesday or Wednesday, we could have popped the tarp and opened it for the students and had more people down there,” Joos said. “But that is a three-day process, two at the absolute latest, and the data we had on Thursday was a good number of student tickets were still available.”
Tailgating has also experienced an influx of people. Matt Burchett is director of student activities, an organization that helps oversee tailgates as well as partners with Baylor’s Chamber of Commerce and Baylor athletics to help facilitate management of the student section.
“A couple years ago, we only had six to eight student organizations participating in tailgating,” Burchett said. “When we moved to this current location and added certain amenities like electricity, cable, tents and seating areas and obviously when the Bears started winning, it really took off and became such a dynamic for students.”
Burchett said Student Activities tries to keep the largest possible amount of tickets available for students. These tickets are general admission into the student section and do not guarantee a seat.
“We have a really good number of student tickets available and I would venture to say that if you compared our percentage of tickets allotted for students that we have one of the bigger percentages in the Big 12,” Burchett said.
Parking is another thing to keep in mind as crowds swell. Baylor Police Chief Jim Doak said he would encourage students to make use of the buses that travel to and from Floyd Casey Stadium.
“Parking is a big issue and is a genuine problem,” Doak said. “And the reason being is years ago we used to put 45,000-50,000 people in the stadium and we could do it with the parking that is there. Well, today we can’t.”
Doak said each parking lot was closed an hour before the last game. He said it is important to show up early, because game-goers will be competing with weekday traffic as well as a limited amount of daylight because of daylight saving time, which is Nov. 3.