Fred Glass said he knows that he won’t see a consistently sold-out Memorial Stadium until Indiana football turns into a winning program, no matter what sort of facilities IU adds on to the stadium or what sort of promotions he puts together.
But that, the Indiana athletic director said, isn’t a reason for him to sit around and wait.
“I’ll acknowledge that I get that being good is the best way to get people in the stands,” Glass said at Tuesday IU Football Media Day. . “I’m not a goof about that. I understand that winning is the best marketing strategy we have. But I reject and have always rejected the approach I think some people sometimes have. Shrug their shoulders and say ‘Well, there’s not much we can do. We’ll just wait until the team wins.’ I think that’s wrong-headed, and that’s why last year and I think continuing this year, we’re doing everything we can to prime the pump if you will, to get people excited so that as the team comes along as I’m very confident it will, we’re going to be in great shape in terms of attendance.”
So in Season 2 of his tenure, Glass is attempting about as many out-of-the-box ideas as he did in Season 1.
The primary goal of most of his initiatives, he said, is to get young people hooked on IU football, starting as kids and continuing through their time at IU and into their first few years of real-world adulthood. Glass said children up to age 18 will continue to get into games for $5 as will students and young alumni, meaning alums who have graduated in the past three years. He said those initiatives have helped raise overall ticket sales by 18 percent from this time last year and has caused the sale of season tickets to young alumni to sky rocket, by 1400 percent. He also said IU has already sold more season tickets (17,348) than they did all last season (17,278).
“If we catch fire and win some non-conference games and beat Michigan when they come in here, then that’s really the momentum that we need to be doing what we want fan wise,” Glass said.
Glass said he also has planned a number of changes involving in-game atmosphere. The new scoreboard will obviously be an important part of it, but he said he’s also expecting a lot from the student section, which will now be dubbed “The Crimson Quarry,” a nod to the Indiana limestone tradition. Glass said the school will try to promote students to play a long with the theme, perhaps wearing hard-hats to games and t-shirts with the Crimson Quarry name on it. He also said IU will have a “Quarry Rig,” with a blowhorn on it that it will use to make noise for big plays.
“This may be my favorite thing this year,” Glass said. “… It looks like a crane that they use to pull the rocks and stuff out of the quarries. We’re creating a replica of that. We’re going to put it in front of the students section. It’s going to be like 20 feet high, and on the top of it is going to be a horn. So when there’s a big play by IU, a turnover or a third-down stop or whatever, a goalline stand, we’re going to blow that horn.”
Glass said he’s also trying to make some traditions crossover from football to basketball. That’s the reason, he said, that the poles below the scoreboard are candy-stripe red and white to match the IU basketball program’s warm-up pants. This year, Glass said, he will try to replicate the tradition of playing the William Tell Overture with the cheerleaders running around with IU flags, which always happens at the media timeout closest to the eight-minute mark in basketball games.
In addition, Glass said, IU is trying to make its games more green. Among the initiatives there are use of more food products grown in-state, including popcorn, to cut down on travel costs, and a bike valet service that allows visitors to ride their bikes up to the stadium and have them valeted.
All of that adds a lot of ancillary activity to the games, but IU coach Bill Lynch said he doesn’t view any of it as a distraction and that he hopes it will get help get people into the stands.
“I think it’s gonna be fun,” Lynch said. “He’s a creative guy. His staff, Pat Kraft, they do a great job of coming up with ideas. And you know, the thing that’s great about it is they’re not afraid for an idea … if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, we’ll try the next one. I think sometimes you’re afraid, ‘Oh, that won’t work, so we won’t do anything. But clearly, the things he did last year caught on. First and foremost I think is the real effort to put the students here. Both from the price of tickets to make it easier for the friends who come on campus to come, to developing this quarry, and all the different things that make it where if you’re a student at IU on a football Saturday or a Thursday night, that’s the place to be.”