The athletics department is offering students incentives to come to UT games.
Beginning in August, Tennessees athletics department started attendance rewards for Tennessee sporting events. The goal of the program is to increase student turnout by providing students with extra incentives for showing up at the games.
We want to introduce students to all our sports, said Stephanie Dawkins, marketing assistant for the athletics department. We want students to learn to enjoy all our sports and make attendance to all of them more routine.
Research and discussion of the program began in early 2008. After being presented to the senior athletic administration in June, the program was officially implemented in August.
UT hosts 20 varsity sports. While football and basketball have been well-established and publicized events in the past, other less well-known varsity sporting events include cross country and track meets, softball games, swimming and diving meets and rowing regattas.
To be eligible for the program, students must register their student ID cards with the University of Tennessees marketing department at the UT Sports Web site. Students who attend Rewards Game-designated varsity sporting events may then scan their student ID at the marketing table to record their attendance and earn their rewards.
The gifts students can win become better as they attend more events. Examples include receiving an orange Adidas t-shirt for attending five games while those who attend 40 games will receive a $100 Food City gift card. The top 10 point earners will be invited to a VIP catered party with head athletic coaches and receive autographed items from various teams.
Last year we probably averaged 10 students at a volleyball match, said Dawkins. This year, we had 141 students at [the] Kentucky volleyball match. Student attendance at soccer matches has reached record highs.
Dawkins said the impact of students at these lesser-attended sporting events has not only benefited the students participating in the rewards program, but the athletes themselves.
The student athletes appreciate all the support given to them by their peers, said Dawkins. It really makes a difference.
Students around campus have been exposed to the program through a number of media outlets. From posted advertisements in the University Center to detailed Facebook groups, students are being encouraged to take part.
I like the Facebook group because it tells me when and where the volleyball and soccer games are being held, said Holly Phillippi, junior in nutrition and pre-med. The communication makes it easier for me to set dates in my calendar and the rewards give me even more reasons to attend UT games.
For more information on the program and the rewards involved, students are invited to go to http://www.utsports.com/fans/student-rewards.html.