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College football attendance is down, and UNLV has a radical idea: Give people food

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All-you-can-eat tickets seem like a smart way to get people to show up at football games.

San Jose State v UNLV Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Average attendance at FBS games has fallen each year since 2013. The 42,203 fans who attended the average home game in 2017 were the fewest since 1997.

UNLV is among the legions of teams that doesn’t draw well. The Rebels averaged 17,499 fans at their six home games in 2017, per the NCAA. They averaged 18,000-some the year before that. Sam Boyd Stadium, their home in Las Vegas, holds about 35,000.

An extremely simple but good idea to up attendance: Give people a bunch of food when they buy a ticket.

The Las Vegas Sun reports on what the Rebels are up to:

Some tickets for UNLV football this fall will include unlimited concession items in an initiative university officials believe is unique in college athletics. They also say it’s a tremendous value.

The three-game “Eat All You Can Plan,” which will provide boundless hot dogs, popcorn, nachos and soda, costs $79. While all-you-can-eat promotions are common at Major League Baseball stadiums, it is not prominent on a college football Saturday.

The games are Sept. 8 against UTEP; Nov. 3 against Fresno State; Nov. 24 in the Fremont Cannon rivalry game against [Nevada].

“It’s a great way for your family to enjoy first-class entertainment and create a memory for an affordable price,” said Desiree Reed-Francois, UNLV’s athletic director.

Were I in Las Vegas and looking for things to do on Saturdays in the fall, I’d think seriously about spending $80 for what amounts to three huge lunches while spending time outside. If I wanted to watch UTEP play UNLV, I’d consider that a sort of bonus to my food.

Is UNLV reinventing the wheel here? Of course not.

Baseball teams do this frequently. I’m sure minor league teams do, but even major league teams have dabbled. I’ve sat in “all-you-can-eat” seats at Pirates games a few times. Surely other teams in other sports have offered this delightful and simple promotion.

It’s uncommon in football, where home games are few and far between. It definitely doesn’t happen in the NFL, where it was huge news when the Falcons opened a new stadium and drew praise for not charging $5,000 for a beer, or whatever.

Food remains a superb way to get people to come to things.

More athletic departments should use this tried-and-true tactic.

(h/t Reddit College Football)