UH "Manoa Maniacs" building football fan base

UH "Manoa Maniacs" building football fan base

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow)

There are more than 4,000 seats set aside at Aloha Stadium for University of Hawaii students. But last season during football home games most students punted.  The average attendance in the student rooting section was only about 1,200.

Compare that to UH Manoa enrollment last year that was nearly 59,000.  That's more than enough to fill every chair in the stadium.

"We have to generate more interest," UH Athletic Director Ben Jay said.

The woe in last year's woeful numbers is compounded by the fact that students don't have to buy a ticket. Their $50 student fee covers the cost of getting into games. But they're still not going to football games.

"I definitely think that they should. But I also think that the football team needs to pick it up a bit," UH student Jennifer Crawford said.

Hawaii's losing records have something to do with student disinterest. But there's another roadblock -- distance.

"You have the logistics of trying to get them to the stadium. We do provide buses for them to come down from the university to the stadium," Jay said.

There is free parking at the stadium for students who car pool. Yet the student section is more no show than show up. Students who go to games believe the empty seat syndrome feeds off itself.

"It's kind of sad," Kelsey Coria said. "It makes you not want to go anymore because it's kind of boring."

So what's the solution? Some believe the answer is building a new a stadium on campus or close to it.

"It would be easier to go to. It would bring a lot of the students who dorm here," student Wyatt Rushing said.

Both the state and UH commissioned stadium studies this year. But more immediate help may come from the efforts of the Manoa Maniacs. The student led organization raised $10,000 to advertise upcoming football games on campus banners and fliers, and at weekly pep rallies, and through social media. They are also sponsoring prize giveaways. Students have to be at the games to win.

"We're using our student rewards program. You get points for going to games and doing things with social media to help get people involved," Manoa Maniacs chairperson Genevieve Bradley said.

The Maniacs have worked magic at UH basketball games.  Student attendance doubled. Jay's hoping for the same magic for football.

"Now we have a full-fledged schedule of promotional events for students, to attract them to come out," Jay said. "There's a lot of theme nights. A lot of good stuff going on."

UH football kicks off next week. There are seven home games. Seven chances to put more students in the seats.

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