During last week’s board meeting, Coastal Carolina University trustees expressed disappointment with the student attendance at home football games.
“Two years ago, we made it a priority to get student life to be more involved in athletics,” Trustee Wyatt Henderson said, referring to the university’s move to the Sun Belt Conference and the expansion of Brooks Stadium to 21,000 seats.
Whitney Comer, assistant vice president for student life, said the university had tried numerous strategies including a tailgate, activities, and games set up outside of the stadium, but those events did not make much of a difference in attendance.
Students told her that there needed to be more activities for them inside the stadium, and they are working on a “Chant Zone” and the Pepsi Patio to have more options for in-stadium fun.
During homecoming last fall, student groups had a competition against each other in which they earned points for attending different functions, including football games.
Game attendance significantly jumped during homecoming, and Comer said they have decided to do that same thing again next year.
Henderson said the board expects student leadership and student life staff to make an example and be at those games with the students.
“We have yet to figure this out,” he said. “It’s frustrating for those who come to the game that we can’t get our own students there.”
Trustee George Mullen agreed.
“We have a whole big stadium and the whole upper deck is empty,” he said.
Comer said that they are looking at implementing a program that would let students bank points on their CINO cards for attending games and other functions, with prizes for certain numbers of points.
“We need to make those prizes mean something,” Henderson said, adding comments on high-incentive prize ideas such as a $500 CINO card credit, an iPad, and even joked about a car as a grand prize.
Henderson and Trustee Natasha Hanna acknowledged that a lot of great ideas about increasing attendance were floating around.
“Across all sports, there are lots of ideas, but what I don’t see is a plan,” Hanna said.
She said she wants the board to give a directive to the athletic foundation, student life and other university leaders to come together with “measurable goals” on increasing athletic event attendance by their May board meeting.
“[Just] talking about it doesn’t work,” Hanna said.
Despite those concerns, student attendance at football games did increase from 8,090 in 2018 to 12,639 in 2019. However, Coastal officials said they still have a long way to go.
The Student Government Association students said they would try to help where they could on the issue.
“We connect with every single person we positively can,” said SGA executive vice president Khyle Mingo, noting that SGA members “hit all surfaces” in terms of covering a vast array of student groups on campus within their ranks.
“We are elected as the voice of the students,” Mingo said.
Henderson said he looks forward to seeing changes in the coming months.
“I’m personally about at my wit’s end,” he said. "We’ve got to make this a priority. I hope the next season will be different. I don’t know what the answer is.”