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OPINION: UL students unhappy with football game day experience, call for change

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Students are displeased with their Ragin’ Cajun football game day experience. They are bored, disconnected and ready for something to change.

And honestly, you can’t blame them.

After a long, hard week of quizzes, reports and homework, students are looking forward to a weekend full of tailgating, football and food; however, some University of Louisiana at Lafayette students do not feel they are getting that here as a Ragin’ Cajun.

So, let's go over the problems and concerns of the students regarding game day experience for their Louisiana football team.

Many students took their dissatisfaction to social media after the Cajun's home opener against Liberty, which was 35-14. Their No. 1 problem was the area of the tailgate.

Last season, the tailgate was located in Bourgeois Park, across from the gym and the softball field. Most students were satisfied with this location because of the space of the grassy area that gave everyone ample room to set up tents and grills and mingle to their liking.

And as the saying goes, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” In my opinion, and as a fellow student, there was not enough indication from students that the area for tailgating needed to be “fixed.”

With the collaboration of select students with the Athletics department the tailgate location was moved for the 2019 season. The Ragin’ Cajun Athletics department decided it would encourage their student attendance numbers by moving tailgate back to Cajun Field on the southside concourse of the stadium, making it somewhat inevitable for students to go in the game. The decision was made with limited outreach from other students, but was considered to be an effective decision because of the input of some SGA and UPC members.

Ragin’ Cajun students, who wished to remain anonymous, took their complaints about the new location to Twitter, tweeting things such as:

“This new UL tailgate location aint it”

“Terrible”

“I didn’t like it because there was no space. Apparently when it used to be there years back there used to be space in the parking lot students could use but we didn’t even have that bc the cars were parked.”

It looks as though the decision to relocate is not improving student attendance.

Now, let’s move on to another problem. Some students feel no real connection with the Ragin’ Cajun football players, and it’s not the student-athletes’ fault. Student-athletes have an immense amount of pressure toppled on their shoulders to produce quality work every weekend in front of a crowd of people.

Last season for Louisiana was the first non-losing season since 2014, a turn in the right direction for the program and the players.

But one would have to think that, after scoring a touchdown in Cajun Field and glancing at your student section as you jog to your sideline, it can be a tad bit discouraging to the player. They could use support for their efforts on the field too.

However, to support any individual, students want to be able to relate and connect with these student-athletes. In turn, what students want is to get to know their Louisiana team. Fan day is not enough, there needs to be more.

A suggestion of having a student night with the players may spark a move in the right direction. Allowing the players to participate in organized events with student organizations on campus or generating more personal stories on the student-athletes about their lives off the field could help improve this problem.

The last point of complaints is geared toward the game itself.

Yes, the fan-friendly prices were a nice touch for affordability inside the game for the students but it is not enough to keep their happiness.

Students are feeling the entertainment aspect lacks excitement and interaction. They want the cheerleaders to do more than the regular cheer and the band to play more songs than the traditional. Students are not asking for the band to play the infamous “Neck,” but they are asking for something modern and hype.

To illustrate the point even further, in a popular movie titled “Drumline,” this same problem existed. One band was known for their classic renditions, while the other band was known for their upbeat modern style. Nick Cannon acted as an aspiring drummer wishing to play a more flashy style.

Cannon’s character went on to tell the band director how he felt about the songs their band was playing: “This is wack,” a similar phrase some Louisiana students are saying in the stands during halftime.

Endoenzia Spears, a senior heavily involved on campus, went on to tweet about this lack of student-centered entertainment by saying:

“The music is boring and everything is catered to families (even though we have family day) instead of us college students. Needs to be more interactive to hold our attention.”

There are a few suggestions that could help the progression of student attendance, such as allowing the student-led organizations to be more in control of the game day experience and bringing collaborative efforts amongst the students who are attending. The goal is to bridge the gap and allow students to have an input in their experience. Besides, these students are paying for it with the underlying fees mingled in tuition.

Students have not been happy for a long time and are craving a change.

So, to the athletics department, this is a student and an avid sports fan giving their input in hopes that you will listen. They want to support the Ragin’ Cajuns but they also want to know them. They want the tailgate location to be moved back for the sake of space and accessibility. They do not mind the walk from the tailgate to the game as long as the game is worth attending. Better interactions and better entertainment.

And just maybe this will result in a move in the right direction, and students will actually pack out the nonexistent student section.

Revive the culture back into the game day experience, because these Ragin’ Cajun students are looking for a reason to visit Cajun Field on Saturday night.


CLARIFICATION: The following sentences:

"There was no indication from students that the area for tailgating needed to be 'fixed,'"

"Without any consideration or input from students, the tailgate location was moved for the 2019 season," and

"The decision was made solely by people that are not students, but seem to feel inclined to know exactly what students want,"

were changed to:

"... there was not enough indication from students that the area for tailgating needed to be 'fixed,'

"With the collaboration of select students with the Athletics department the tailgate location was moved for the 2019 season," and

"The decision was made with limited outreach from other students, but was considered to be an effective decision because of the input of some SGA and UPC members."

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