Op-Ed: Why are we paying for Lafayette-Lehigh?

I want to preface this by saying that I work in a limited capacity with the football team, give tours during official visits and, up until recently, worked with them for about 15 hours every week helping with film and, more importantly, recruiting. Part of every tour included a boast about how Fisher Stadium has hosted the most students per capita in the Patriot League for four out of the previous six years before Covid began. This year we are on pace to finish third to last.

Currently, Lafayette allows students to get into one of the seven home games for free as long as they register beforehand. I have been to every football game that the football team has played both home and away since the spring 2020 season. As I look upon the not-even-quarter-filled Fisher Stadium with barely any students in attendance, I do wonder why there is any reason students would have to pay to get in.

Across the highest echelons of college football, there is a myriad of schools that refuse to charge students for tickets including the University of South Carolina, the 13th-ranked University of North Carolina and the fourth-ranked and undefeated playoff-hopeful Texas Christian University.

There is precedent among the highest levels of college football for tickets to be included in tuition, so it is confusing for a school like Lafayette not to have that same availability. When President Hurd introduced football coach John Troxell and basketball coach Mike Jordan, she spoke about Lafayette being a school that is “and not or,” where we are not just known for our academic prowess, but also our athletic and artistic expertise.

Why, then, are we not doing our best to make sure our students are getting involved in all facets of the Lafayette culture, and instead placing a barrier between students and the most important game of the year? $17 is a significant amount of money, yet that is what the Lafayette athletic administration charges us to go to the Lafayette-Lehigh game that is all over our admission materials and talked about on every tour a prospective student might take.

A fellow sports writer even tried to report on this. He contacted four different people in the athletic department and none of them responded to his requests for comment, making it impossible for the student body to understand their rationale.

I understand there is a lot of interest in going to the game, especially among students, and there needs to be a way to make sure that everyone who gets in can get a seat. However, fourth-ranked TCU just played the 19th-ranked team in the country in a rivalry game to clinch a spot in their conference title, and tickets for that game were first come, first serve with no paywall.

Maybe the sports administration needs money after hiring new coaches across five different sports in the last year. But how can they expect to have these coaches succeed if no one is at their games?  Up to this point, the football team has averaged a 16 percent capacity rate across the first five home games of the year. That statistic includes the general public and fans who root for the other team.

As we embark upon a new era of Lafayette with a new president, a newish athletic director and several new coaches, I truly hope that Lafayette places a higher priority on getting students to games and allowing us to cheer on our fellow Leopards.