One of the great things about being at Stanford is free access to most sports on campus (everything but men’s basketball, at least).
Every student on the Farm can join the Red Zone, the official student fan club, simply by going to a game with a Stanford ID card. For just showing your face you reap some pretty nice benefits: a free weekly e-mail from Stanford Athletics (though not everyone might view that as a benefit!), a free T-shirt (assuming you get in early enough and your size is still available, otherwise you might be wearing either a tent or an extremely figure-hugging number) and enrollment in the Red Zone Loyalty Program (which basically decides whether or not you get to go to the Big Game).
Now don’t get me wrong, the fact that the athletics department gives free access to games, plus a free T-shirt, is nothing to be sniffed at, but I am not a huge fan of the loyalty points system. Perhaps there needs to be a way to give some preference to the most committed fans among the student body to attend the Big Game (especially with it being held across the Bay this year), but I don’t think the current system really achieves that.
There are a total of 13 points up for grabs this year, with nine guaranteeing you a free ticket. However, one of those points is not available until after the Big Game (that is, it will only count towards next year) and new students may be annoyed to discover that another was handed out at the Spring Game (played far back in April, before they were privileged enough to own an SUID). For a lot of people this means there are only realistically 11 points they can rack up.
Miss either of the Washington State or Arizona games, which count for three points apiece, and your hopes of that free ticket are history. And now that Stanford Athletics has limited the number of students allowed into the USC game, the required number of points is even more difficult to accrue.
Perhaps, you might say, that is the point: you have to be a diehard fan and go to every game to deserve a free ticket. But that’s just not realistic. Consider, for example, two extremes. For example’s sake, I’ll use Alice and Bob.
Alice: Can’t get enough of college football and goes to every single game, except one. She always arrives at the stadium early to get a front row seat and stays to the very end, win or lose. Unfortunately the game she misses is Arizona, because of a family commitment that weekend–eight points.
Bob: Likes the atmosphere of games, but can’t quite find the time or enthusiasm to stay for all four quarters and often just drifts by on his way elsewhere, making sure to rack up enough points to go to the Big Game. Unfortunately he’s out of town for the Washington State game, so leaves his card with a friend to get it swiped–11 points.
Which of these two is the most loyal Red Zone member? Who really deserves that ticket?
The Red Zone also claims to be the fan club for all sports, not just football. A quick glance at where you can earn points for loyalty shows only two of the other sports are represented. There are probably very few, but there might just be some students who watch at least one home event in each of the 35 different varsity sports. Surely anyone who does that this year, shows that sort of loyalty to the Cardinal cause, should be worthy of a free ticket to next year’s Big Game, regardless of how many football games they attend.
Perhaps Stanford Athletics could turn the loyalty scheme into some kind of credit card-style rewards program. You would earn points on your SUID for showing up at games, with different numbers of points awarded for different events, but crucially, with the chance of earning something at any event no matter how small. Then you could spend them however you like: Maybe 100 points buys you a Big Game ticket, 50 points a T-shirt. You could even use points toward Sixth Man membership, get game tickets for friends or vouchers for the Athletics Shop.
This way, maybe football games wouldn’t be quite as full as they are now, but the average student representation at sports events across campus would be much bigger, creating greater home advantage and maybe even more success. Plus, there would also be a lot less reason to cheat the system if you honestly can’t make it to one of those points-heavy football games, because you could easily catch up elsewhere.
And for those committed souls who manage to go to all 35 sports in one year? You should get a medal.