Vandy: Six ways to improve attendance

Vanderbilt football faces some obstacles to attendance that most other SEC schools don't have to face. The lack of a geographical identity in its name, local NFL competition, and other factors make it important for the program to be smart in how it plans for marketing success.

Vanderbilt does have some advantages in its marketing environment. The biggest is a huge local population along with a prestigious name along with being a member of the top conference in college football. Here are some ways Vanderbilt can improve its home game attendance without needing a massive marketing effort.

1) Field winning teams. Watching football is a lot more enjoyable when your team wins. We learned that from 2011-13. Really though, we always knew this because the program had scattered wins before this and those wins were also joyful. Although every game wasn't packed while James Franklin was in town, games were certainly better attended and more Black & Gold was in the stands. If you have any doubt about that just look back on the 2012 Vandy-Tennessee game for proof.

2) Recruit local players. If you bring in a player from Minnesota, he's more than likely going to head back to that state after graduation. Sign a kid from Middle Tennessee and you'll have an ambassador for Vanderbilt football for decades, right here in the mid-state. In addition, his family will be able to attend his games and likely get hooked to Commodore football. If Vandy could have half their signees from Middle Tennessee that could certainly help attendance.

3) Vandy fans only sections. First off, keep in mind that a lot of fans don't want to sit near rude, obnoxious fans of other teams. In the past Vanderbilt has offered inexpensive tickets in the south end zone, however, those tickets would often be gobbled up by opposing fans. Vanderbilt should have Vandy fans only sections. These tickets would be very inexpensive but controlled to ensure Vandy fans only occupy this area. Tickets would not be transferable electronically and would have the ticket holder's name printed on the ticket. This would be checked against the holder's ID at the gate. Wearing other team's apparel would not be allowed and neither would rooting for the opponent. I say start small and if it works let it grow. Maybe do a small section in the south end zone and another in the side-line seating area to start.

4) Get more kids to games. Maybe for a game like the upcoming Austin Peay contest in 2015, offer very inexpensive family passes. If you get kids to the games with their families, and they have fun, they'll remember the experience and some day when they are parents themselves will want to bring their own children. Why not make the APSU game "Family" or "Kid's" Day right now? So what if a few Gov fans bring their families. They live close enough that they might jump on the 'Dore band wagon.

5) Modernize Vanderbilt Stadium but with no substantial expansion. The current facility certainly needs to be modernized or replaced. Either way, Vandy should have the most beautiful, sleek and modern facility in college football because Vanderbilt is known for excellence. When television viewers turn on a Vandy game played in Vanderbilt Stadium they should be in awe with the Commodore’s football home. It should have the best rest rooms, concessions, press box, and the most luxurious donor sweets but don't make it huge, at least now. Let's focus on quality, not quantity. Having a modern, beautiful facility will help attract both spectators and star football prospects because it shows a university dedication to the football program. I hope the Board of Trust will not stick its head in the sand because of one lean season. A "head in the sand" mentality could snowball like it did from 1960 to 1980 when Vandy did absolutely nothing of significance to help the football program other than the Peabody arrangement.

6) Game start times. Evening start times in late November make games more attractive to watch on television. Early games in the warmer months rob the fans of pre-game tailgate time. TV money is great but don't throw your fan base out the window the bath water. Vanderbilt should work TV executives to keep game start times more conducive to the game day experience.

Gimmicky marketing promotions could help some but the above ideas are more geared to build long term success in filling Vanderbilt Stadium with Vanderbilt fans. The worst the program can do is nothing.

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