Student section seating for WAC schools
Compared to other Western Athletic Conference schools, Fresno State looks to have some of the most disappointing student seating at home football games.
While being seated close to one of the most dramatic entrance spots in the WAC may have its advantages, students might wonder if the location was chosen with their best interests in mind â€” or just as a simple solution.
According to The Collegianâ€™s analysis of WAC stadiums, Fresno State has the third lowest percentage of student seating available in the conference. Fresno State is one of only two schools that consistently charges students for admission; most WAC schools give their students tickets for free. Fresno State also has what some students consider a poor seating location â€” on the south end corner, more than half a football field away from the 50-yard line.
Bulldog Stadium, which has been recognized as one of the most aesthetically pleasing stadiums in the conference, has some of the best student support in the region. Known as one of the toughest places for visiting teams to win, Bulldog Stadium is known throughout the WAC for its supportive students and their passionate cheering.
In 2005, after ongoing complaints about objects being thrown onto the field by students and home-team fans throughout the conference, all WAC student sections, if positioned behind the visiting teamâ€™s bench, had to be relocated.
Thatâ€™s where the analysis of student seating at Bulldog Stadium â€” and whether or not it favors students â€” begins.
Thomas Boeh, who has been athletic director at Fresno State for four years, feels that the student seating at Bulldog Stadium was located in the next best place after the WAC rule change.
â€œWe tried to get the students as close to the tunnel as we could,â€ Boeh said. â€œWe thought they would like to be seated closest to where the players entered the field.â€
Assistant Athletic Director Paul Ladwig also noted that the stadiumâ€™s seating options were limited because of regular season ticket holders and longtime â€œpersonal seat licenseâ€ ticket holders, or PSLs.
â€œAfter regarding season ticket holders, the next available open general place was the south end zone,â€ Ladwig said.
In a 2004 interview with The Collegian, before the WAC ruling became official, head coach Pat Hill said that if relocating the student section did become mandatory, he would rather switch sidelines than see the students have to move.
Hillâ€™s idea to switch sidelines didnâ€™t happen. If it had, the student section at Fresno State might have been a little more comparable to other WAC schools.
Aggie Memorial Stadium, the home field for New Mexico State, has a capacity of 40,000 â€” only 1,031 seats less than Fresno State. Aggie Memorial Stadium allots 11.2 percent of its seating for students, which is more than the 9.7 percent that comprises student seating at Bulldog Stadium.
New Mexico State students get prime seating behind the home team and the band, while Fresno State students sit in a corner nearly 100 yards away from the band.
According to Boeh, Bulldog Stadiumâ€™s setup is closer to that of Bronco Stadium at Boise State. But still, according to The Collegianâ€™s comparison, there are differences.
Boise State gives its students four full sections, spanning from the north end zone to the 50-yard-line, and a total of 5,000 seats. Boise offers 1,000 more student seats than Fresno State, even though Bronco Stadium has more than 10,000 fewer total seats than Bulldog Stadium. Plus, student admission is free.
Boeh said the university might consider future seating changes at Bulldog Stadium.
â€œThe one thing that we donâ€™t have now that we would like to have in the future, is the student section closer to the band,â€ Boeh said. â€œThere are as many stadium configurations as there are stadiums and right now we just donâ€™t have the proper setup.â€
Boeh said that in order for the student section to be moved, even if to just be closer to the band, the stadium seating would have to be reconfigured. He isnâ€™t confident that a move would happen soon.
Besides seating location and the number of student seats, Fresno State also has the highest cost of game admission for its students.
When compared with the cost of public admission, which can range from $35 to $60 or higher, the $15 student price doesnâ€™t seem so bad. But when every other WAC school gets in to games for free or for $5 at most, Fresno State students have another significant disadvantage at home games.
Boeh said that while the student cost may seem high, there is more to it than just wanting to make money.
â€œThe schools that have free admission get considerably more financial support from the students and the university than Fresno State does,â€ Boeh said. â€œWe generate about 80 percent of our budget, and because we have to generate the majority of our resources, we operate a program thatâ€™s business model is different from others.â€
Boeh said that the athletic departmentâ€™s budget setup, having less outside financial support than other WAC schools, is the main reason that Fresno State students are charged more.
â€œOur budget this year is approximately $25 million and we still have to generate about $20 million, which is roughly 80 percent,â€ Boeh said. â€œIf we only had to generate 20 percent, we wouldnâ€™t have a charge either.â€
Whether the issue is seating location, number of seats or student prices, some Fresno State student football fans arenâ€™t excited.
Kiel Taylor, a senior civil engineering major, remembers when he first came to Fresno State and how great of an experience the football games were.
â€œI remember the student seating being unique and very important to the football program,â€ Taylor said. â€œI donâ€™t like the new spot. Itâ€™s dark over there and way away from the action of the game.â€
Text compiled by Melissa Knopp
Illustration by Michael Uribes, Juan Villa and Brandon Ocegueda / The Collegian
Sources: Ticketmaster and the web sites of WAC schools