How to get students to show up to Camp Randall on time

  • Post Author
    by Sports director
  • Post Date
    Sat May 18 2024

By Krissy Birdsall

Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium at kickoff against Georgia Southern, with a lightly-filled student section. Photo by Krissy Birdsall.

On a crisp fall afternoon in Madison, Wisconsin, thousands of Badgers fans flock to Camp Randall Stadium to cheer on the Wisconsin football team. Whether kickoff is 11:00 a.m. or 6:30 p.m., the stadium is nearly full by Badger faithful at the start of the game. While the rest of Camp Randall is filled by a sea of cardinal and white at kickoff, a notably large chunk of the north endzone contrasts the rest of the stands: dull, gray bleachers stare back at the stadium, a sign of a half-empty student section.

It's a familiar tale at Camp Randall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which on any given Saturday can bring over 80,000 fans jumping around to Badgers football. In the stadium, 14,000 seats are reserved for Area Red, the Badgers' student section. For a program that has sold out student section tickets for 30-straight years, the issue of the students arriving on time for Wisconsin game days has been a prominent issue for Badger football. 

Every year, photos of a half-empty student section have circulated on the internet and social media. Fans on social media have described the empty bleachers at kickoff as “embarrassing” and “disappointing.” People have questioned why Badger students fail to arrive on time to Wisconsin football games since at least 2009

With the recent announcement of Wisconsin playing Alabama in a non conference game on FOX's Big Noon Kickoff, which comes with an 11:00 a.m. CT kickoff time slot, expectations of students arriving on time for the Badgers' most coveted non conference game in years are on the floor

For a problem that has persisted for over a decade, many have encouraged Wisconsin Athletics to find ways to fix this chronic issue.

While taking a look at past suggestions to UW to encourage students to fill the student section by kickoff, as well as researching what other teams do to get their students to arrive on time, here are three suggestions on how to fix the tardy student section:

1. The Packer Way: Fireworks before kickoff

Wisconsin Athletics could benefit from taking a page from their nearby NFL-counterpart the Green Bay Packers, which features some of the most loyal fans, according to a study from An hour before kickoff, with weather permitting, the Packers launch fireworks to remind fans in Titletown to go to the gate. 

The Packers aren't the first and only NFL team to utilize this method of encouraging fans to arrive on time: The Jets, Eagles and Steelers have all implemented this solution to create full NFL stadiums by kickoff. 

This idea has also been picked up by a few collegiate football programs, including Arkansas. With Camp Randall Stadium's capacity at a similar level to NFL stadiums, this solution would be beneficial to encourage all fans to arrive earlier to Badgers football games. 

2. Open a second student section gate

Camp Randall has 10 entrance gates for fans to enter the stadium, but only one of the gates is reserved for students. For all 14,000 student seats, student ticket holders must enter Gate 5, located near the student section outside of the north endzone. With many students showing up right before kickoff, wait times to get into Gate 5 and to their seat have been reported to be as long as 45 to 60 minutes.

Another issue that creates the log jam is single file lines students must be in to get to their section and seat. Students are not assigned seats when purchasing student season tickets, but instead are given vouchers and redeem tickets game-by-game. While this process allows students to sit with their friends in their desired section, students are seated in their section in single file lines, further extending the time from the gate to their seat. 

The process forces students to arrive over 30 minutes before kickoff in order to get to their seats on time. While eliminating single file lines would significantly reduce the wait times, adding a second entrance gate for students can also quicken the process and create a fuller student section by kickoff.

3. A new lively pregame tradition

Pregame traditions are a staple of other college campuses, such as Virginia Tech's “Enter Sandman” and Auburn's “War Eagle.” While Wisconsin has a list of notable traditions for Badger football game days, there isn't one for the pregame.

Something that makes a trip to Camp Randall unforgettable is the iconic traditions during Wisconsin football games. The iconic “Jump Around,” which is widely considered as the best tradition in college football, headlines a stellar list of Badger customs such as “Build me a Buttercup,” “Varsity” and “Bucky's Fifth Quarter.” 

One pregame tradition that seemed to have struck a chord with some of the Badger faithful was “Where the Streets Have No Name.” It had enough of a profound impact that some fans created a petition to bring it back to Camp Randall. 

A lot of Wisconsin's most notable traditions came through trial-and-error, and Wisconsin needs to think of a student-friendly pregame tradition to encourage fans to want to be at Camp Randall early. Whether they return “Where the Streets Have No Name” or bring something new, a pregame tradition could change the tone of a tardy student section to a full one by kickoff.