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Jackson State's FANtastic Idea to Increase HBCU Game Attendance

Jackson State has a FANtastic idea to solve empty stadiums that most HBCU programs should consider duplicating.

Jackson State has a FANtastic idea to solve empty stadiums that most HBCU programs should consider duplicating.

If you want to fill your stadiums, let the young fans enter FREE!

Jackson State has a FANtastic idea to solve empty stadiums that most HBCU programs should consider duplicating.

Fall football brings out the best at HBCUs.  The homecomings, bands, dance teams, tailgating, reunions, parades, and pageantry, along with the big hits and dramatic finishes on the field.  But none of this means anything unless the fans are in the stadiums' seats.

Fans are the lifeblood of most HBCU athletic departments. Poor attendance and empty stadiums can negatively impact struggling programs.  For instance, most HBCU schools depend on fan attendance at football games to fund and maintain auxiliary athletic programs such as track and field, basketball, softball, volleyball, soccer, tennis, golf, and bowling. It's a "trickle-down" effect.


Jackson State University

18 and under will be allowed free admission to the Jackson State vs. Texas Southern game! Must enter through Gate 10-G Parent and/or legal guardians are required to purchase tickets #IBelieve x #TheeILove x #BleedTheeBlue x #ProtectTheeBlock


Most HBCU athletic departments should take a page out of Jackson State's playbook for marketing its program. On Saturday, JSU will host Texas Southern for a SWAC battle. The Tigers decided to offer attendees who are 18 and younger FREE admittance into the stadium for the game.   

It's an outstanding concept.  Not new, but an fantastic idea to implement.

According to Ticketmasters' website, one adult ticket costs $30.00. Youths from ages 6-18 must pay $16.00 for game admittance. If I were to purchase tickets for just my son and myself, that would cost me $46.00. A family of four (2 adults and 2 youths) would take a total hit of $92.00 for tickets. Jackson, Mississippi, is not an affluent community and may prevent fans and citizens from routine game attendance.

The priority should continually be educating the young men and delivering an excellent product on the football field. You would think these results should be enough to fill stadiums. Wrong.


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SWAC Home Games Average Attendance

  • Jackson State - 39,957
  • Prairie View - 21,575
  • FAMU - 22,622
  • Alabama A&M - 16,461
  • Texas Southern - 7,887

*Data from SWAC in 2021


Filling stadiums is more than an immediate financial reward for football programs. It's like planting a seed for future growth and opportunities. Recruits and parents take note if fans are supporting the teams. Also, media and broadcasting networks, corporations, sponsors, and donors notice the numbers in the stands. The bottom line is simple: the numbers in seats attract future players, students, donors, and corporate sponsors.

On a sunny and cool Saturday afternoon, Texas Southern had an attendance of 2,712 inside PNC Stadium, which holds up to 23,000. The university is less than 3 miles away from the sports complex, and shuttles could easily carry students to the games. 

TSU Pre-Game

As I took the field during the UAPB vs. TSU warmups, I noticed a sparsely attended arena - especially on the TSU's side. Longtime Houstonian and journalist Ralph Cooper told me that TSU should consider "selling suites and blocks of tickets to the Oil and Gas/Energy corporations" that dominate the City of Houston's business world.


TSU has famous and highly successful alumni who call the fourth largest city in the United States home, but where are they during gametime? HBCUs must become aggressive and engage the youth in the surrounding communities. 

Having something to do on Saturday afternoons should never be a problem with "free tickets" and an opportunity to experience the pageantry of an HBCU sporting event. The teams, bands, cheerleaders, dance teams, and people would have the kids engaged and talking to the family and friends. It also would expose them to a new world and become a catalyst for dreaming about their futures. 

The First Bayou Classic

I know it did for me as a kid.  I witnessed the legend of Doug Williams, Southern's and Grambling's band, inside of a soldout Tulane Stadium for the very first Bayou Classic. The experience was thrilling and unique. I never forgot it and later became a part of it at an HBCU.

HBCUs have something special. Jackson State of paving the way by sharing it for free. It's a powerful way to grow your fanbase. Expose them now, expose them early to the HBCU experience.