Alyssa Synakowski, Assistant Sports Editor, @Synakowski
Utah Valley University’s inaugural season in the Western Athletic Conference will draw to a close soon after the Spring semester ends.
The 2013-14 athletic year has featured many changes as a result of the university joining the WAC.
One of the most important changes to the life of a UVU student happened when the athletics department decided to include admittance to all home events as part of the fees that enrolled students already pay.
It was a decision that followed discussions between UVU athletics, UVU Student Association, and UVU student alumni, and the result affected the Mighty Athletic Wolverine League, also known as the MAWL.
UVU competes against other universities in Utah to get their own students, faculty and staff to come to athletic events.
The loyalties of students often lie elsewhere, even though they are paying tuition to attend class at Utah Valley.
“We had never tried [free admission] before, and we had looked at some research from different universities where they get in for free and their attendance was very high,” said Parker Hansen, Director of Marketing & Promotions. “It worked pretty well and people were pretty pumped that all they needed to do was bring their student ID card.”
Attendance saw an initial boost with the 2,114 fans came out for the men’s basketball first home WAC game against Grand Canyon on Jan. 11, an increase of more than 700 attendees from the Wolverines’ previous game.
The final home game against WAC opponent Bakersfield saw 5,068 spectators file into the UCCU center.
Free admission is one of the main reasons for the increase in attendance, but perhaps more can be attributed to the success of the men’s basketball team.
“The team’s success helped [attendance] more than anything. Competing for the WAC championship and then winning the WAC championship was big for us,” said Clint Burgi, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information. “Being a part of the WAC was going to help attendance either way on top of the success of the team.”
The Wolverines finished the year with a regular season conference championship, went into the WAC Tournament as the no. 1 seed, and then competed in the first round of the NIT against California.
“There’s no better marketing thing than a winning team,” Hansen said. “If your team is winning, a lot of free press comes out of that.”
There was an increase of media coverage by local media outlets in Salt Lake City through the second half of conference play as men’s basketball continued to win.
Local community involvement also grew through the efforts of the athletic office, as the department reached out to elementary schools in the area.
The grade-school students, who brought their families with them, were given free admissions to the games in order to sing the national anthem.
UVU will continue to offer free admission to students and build community support, but the free pass is unlikely to last, as the university’s role in college athletics becomes established.