The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) reacts in the dugout after Texas A&M’s game against Tennessee at the NCAA Men’s College World Series finals at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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12th Man Rewards boosts game attendance

With change in administration and coaching staffs, as well as raised expectations across the board in the Athletic Department, West Campus has become a distinct home field advantage for the Aggies recently – every sport, with the exception of football and men’s basketball, saw an increase in attendance in 2003-04.
Women’s basketball, volleyball, tennis and even the baseball team set single-season records for attendance last season. Soccer, which also set a record, ranked first nationally in attendance this season.
The 12th Man Team Rewards program, brainchild of Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Operations Jeff Schmahl, is responsible for the increased attendance in a large way.
“We’re in the second year, and basically the program was started to increase fan loyalty and attendance in all sports,” said Program Coordinator Jay Roberts.
Texas A&M students and fans can pick up their 12th Man Team cards at any Aggie sporting event besides football games. With each event they attend, they earn one stamp. Roberts said 12 stamps will earn a spot on the 12th Man Team roster and a T-shirt.
“Last year it really took off quicker than we could have imagined,” Roberts said. “We had over 3,100 people earn roster spots, and around 20 people attend over 140 events.”
After one has received 24 stamps, participants have the choice between a pair of athletic shorts or drawstring bag. At 36 stamps, fans receive a replica 1939 football jersey.
Critics of the program would be quick to add an asterisk to these attendance records, saying the Athletic Department is simply bribing fans to show up to games.
“Instead of bribery, I like to use the term ‘extra incentive,'” Roberts said. “Breaking attendance records is definitely one of our goals.”
Graduate student Thomas McMillan said most students consistently show up and stay for the entire game after getting their cards stamped.
“We’re trying to get people who might be sitting in their dorm room watching TV to get out here and get one more stamp and participate in the home field advantage,” McMillan said.
The program draws alumni in large numbers in addition to a vocal contingent of students. No sport has seen the benefit more than women’s basketball, recording a 71 percent increase in attendance over 2002-03.
“Our main focus is getting fans out here, but our emphasis is on students,” McMillan said.
From his courtside vantage point at the women’s basketball game against UT-San Antonio, Promotions and Game Operations Coordinator Rob Stewart can see the effects of the program first-hand. The game drew 2,180 fans, but the question is: Would that many fans have shown up to a non-conference game in 2002?
“No, not at all,” Stewart said. “And a lot of that is the program. ”
Stewart said the program’s benefit is a result of its broad coverage.
“It’s very inclusive; it’s really helped all sports at A&M,” Stewart said. “It develops a bond between fans and an athletic department rather than just a single sport.”

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