USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken and Paul Myerberg react to the latest College Football Playoff rankings and ponder the chaos that could ensue if Georgia can upset Alabama in two weeks.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — In an attempt to boost student turnout at football games this season, the University of Maryland paid a total of $28,000 in scholarship money to students for attending games and staying until the fourth quarter.
For several seasons, the Terrapins have struggled to fill the student section at Maryland Stadium, ranking third-worst in attendance among Big Ten teams last fall. The stadium is often invaded by larger opposing fan bases, and the student section has been known to thin out quickly and easily, regardless of the game outcome.
“I mean, Maryland attendance could be a little better, you see all the Ohio State fans here?” said Maryland freshman and scholarship giveaway winner Jesse Akiva Klineman at last Saturday’s 52-51 home loss to the Buckeyes.
“I’d love to have more Maryland fans here every week.”
The attendance issues drew the attention of one motivated donor prior to the 2018 season. The donor, whose identity remains anonymous, approached the school with an idea to incentivize students to not only attend games but also stay at them.
As a result of the donor’s funding, one Maryland student was randomly selected to win a scholarship of at least $5,000 in the fourth quarter of every home game this season. The catch: He or she had to enter the stadium prior to kickoff and stay until the fourth quarter to be eligible for the prize.
If the student didn’t show, two backup names would be called for their chance at the scholarship. If the giveaway went unclaimed, the $5,000 would roll over until the next week, giving students a chance at a $10,000 scholarship.
“Some students were kind of in shock that we were doing it, and I guess kind of in awe, [thinking] ‘Oh, all I have to do is show up at the start of the game and stay there until the fourth quarter and I might win $10,000?’” said Director of Marketing and Fan Experience Jordan Looby.
Another donor, inspired by the original giveaway idea, offered to give a $1,000 scholarship in the third quarter of every home game, starting with the Terrapins’ Sept. 22 home date with Minnesota.
Between the two giveaways, students could have hauled in $35,000 in scholarship money at the Terrapins’ six home games this year.
Despite the added incentive for student support, the $5,000 scholarship went unclaimed at half of the school’s home games, while the $1,000 one went unclaimed twice.
Nevertheless, Looby called the promotion a success.
“If you’re just talking anecdotal evidence, I think it was successful… It’s not super often that we hear a ton of buzz about a specific promotion that we do,” he explained.
“If we keep doing things like this and playing games like we did on Saturday [against Ohio State], that culture will start to build back up a little bit.”
As for whether the promotion will continue, that decision will be left up to the donors.
“I don’t think it would be something that’s necessarily budgeted for us internally,” Looby said. “I’d love to do it again, but I think it would require probably some support like it did this year.”