SBD/July 17, 2014/Colleges

VT's Babcock Looks To Up Football Attendance, Thinks Execs May Have Overpriced Sport

Babcock plans to survey fans and students this season about their priorities
Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock is entering his first football season at the school and is "likely to create a new position dedicated solely to ... 'fan engagement,'" according to David Teel of the Hampton Roads DAILY PRESS. Babcock said, "I don't know that people (nationally) took the fans for granted, but maybe they did. But now the realization is, you'd better be out in front … because if you wait to react, it's too late. We may very well make a hire that is dedicated to these type of things." Teel noted VT only sold out one home game last year following a 7-6 record in '12 that left some fans "disenchanted." It also ended a 93-game sellout streak that dated back to '98. There will be "some changes" when the '14 season begins, with kickoff time being "one tweak." The season-opener against William & Mary on Aug. 30 will start at 3:30pm ET instead of 1:30pm, a "nod to the tailgate mavens who detest early kickoffs." Babcock also anticipates a "less-commercialized approach throughout the season" on Lane Stadium's $4M video board, which debuted last year. Relentless in-stadium sales pitches "were among the primary fan complaints" cited in a June essay by author John Bacon. Babcock said that VT will "survey fans, students and otherwise, this season about their priorities." He also will employ a "secret-shopper service to observe and evaluate the fan experience." Babcock: "I will be seen on game day, in the parking lots, on the concourses, in the suites … in the restrooms." He said of college football in general, "Maybe we outpriced the market. (We thought), if you drop your seats, we've got some people (in line) behind you that will take those. I better not hear that mentality around here. I think those days are gone" (Hampton Roads DAILY PRESS, 7/16).
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