University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said the athletic department's ticket office and senior staff are brainstorming ways to fill up the Badgers' student section more quickly before football games — a problem in recent years despite success on the field.
A vote on the increase of student football ticket prices at Friday's UW Athletic Board meeting led to a discussion on the issue.
The price increase — moving the per-game cost from $24 to $27, the first bump in six years — did pass at the meeting, but not before Badgers inside linebacker Arrington Farrar voiced his concern over UW's late-arriving students at Camp Randall Stadium.
Farrar, who recently joined the board as a student-athlete representative, suggested that UW include football ticket prices in student fees and said a first-come, first-serve policy on game day would force students to arrive early in order to guarantee a spot in the stadium.
"I know one of the main things amongst the team," Farrar said, "is we sell out our student tickets every year, but one of the biggest concerns we have, when we run out of the tunnel, you turn around and it's empty until the third quarter for most games. They come and Jump Around and then leave."
Students often blame the late arrivals on a system that's slow to let them into the stadium at the student gate. Alvarez said he's heard that complaint and that the athletic department will look into it.
Students have, however, shown the capability of filling their seats in a punctual fashion on occasion for big games, particularly when those games are played at night.
"Night games aren't hard," Farrar said. "Especially versus Ohio State, or when College GameDay (is on campus). Those games are full. People want to watch those games. I feel like it's the games that aren't the key matchup games that we've got to get people to.
"I won't be mad if you're there early, it's full early and then you leave early because we're winning. That's not a problem. ... We just want to run out and not see a bald spot."
Alvarez said his senior staff and the UW ticket office is still only brainstorming the issue and has yet to meet in order to formulate concrete ideas on how to put more students in their seats before kickoff. He did say the athletic department shouldn't have to hand out any free give-aways in order to get students in the door on time.
Alvarez also said, aside from the fact that the situation bothers UW's players and coaches, that opposing coaches and administrators have commented on the Badgers' late-arriving student section.
"(It's a concern) when a player speaks up, you guys (in the media) have written about it," Alvarez said. "I appreciate that (students) come. I appreciate that they buy the tickets. The players talk about the fact that they take the field and they look into their students and maybe it's half full. It concerns them. ... I just want to throw some ideas around and see how we can rectify that."
The price change comes after the board also approved season ticket price increases for football and volleyball last month. The football increase — to $378 for a seven-game season — was a 12.5 percent bump and the first since 2015.
The board also approved a 2018-19 fiscal year budget that includes $143.5 million in expenses, an 8 percent increase from the previous year.
Spring game set for April 13
UW will hold its annual spring football game on a Friday night for the second straight year.
The game is set for a 6 p.m. start on April 13. The Badgers' first spring practice is scheduled for March 13.