Florida Atlantic also doubled the overall student ticket allotment to 10,000. Owls begin home slate by hosting No. 18 Central Florida on Saturday night
Florida Atlantic’s home opener against No. 18 Central Florida was always going to be loud. But if a potentially sold-out crowd shatters any decibel records, be sure to thank the students.
Saturday night is FAU’s first home game since the student section was moved from the north end zone stands to behind the visitors’ bench. The decision, ratified in June by the university’s Board of Trustees, puts students closer to the field after years of sitting behind the closed end zone.
FAU also doubled the overall student ticket allotment to 10,000. FAU Stadium seats just under 30,000 fans.
“Really all of our decisions are made student first,” FAU athletic director Brian White said this offseason. “Student-athlete first, but also student body first. We firmly believe that the great athletic departments have great relationships with their student body, not just their student-athletes.”
White said FAU’s student government proposed the idea. In exchange for the new seats, the school's Board of Trustees approved an increase in the student athletic fee by $2 per credit in order to help better fund athletics.
FAU's student government also received a stadium suite for each home game.
“They wanted better seats and, frankly, more seats,” White said. “The goal is to grow student attendance. The goal is to grow attendance overall, but we also think it’ll help us with our overall attendance if we can grow our student attendance first.”
Saturday’s game could be the second sellout in school history. White tweeted Wednesday night less than 650 tickets remain.
Only seats on the Hyundai Deck (home) sideline remain for this Saturday’s home opener
Get yours today
FAU had over 102,000 total fans at six home games last season. That number was down from the 111,410 fans at six regular-season home games in 2017; FAU added another 40,170 spectators for that year’s Conference USA Championship and the Boca Raton Bowl.
Not only did the students get what they wanted, but FAU laid the framework for a unique home-field advantage.
“A lot of schools, when they put their student section behind the bench, it makes the game more fun for us,” Marshall defensive back Chris Jackson said at Conference USA media days this summer. “Schools that have really die-hard fans they’ll even look up your name, do their homework and then call your name out in the game and talk smack to you.”
Jackson and the Thundering Herd play in Boca Raton on Friday, Oct. 18. FAU also hosts Wagner (Sept. 21), Middle Tennessee (Oct. 12), Florida International (Nov. 9) and Southern Miss (Nov. 30).
“So, it does make the game more fun, it makes it more interesting because it may not look full, but right behind you it’s full because students are always going to show up for their team, so it’ll definitely make the game more fun and more interesting,” Jackson added.
Jackson’s teammate, offensive lineman Levi Brown, said he’s also excited to see FAU’s new student section in action.
“Being able to go into someone’s stadium and have that environment like the hostility you always feel, I think it makes the game more fun regardless,” Brown said.
Students will need to toe the line between fun and hazardous. FAU is preparing for the possibility of poor fan behavior, especially with tailgate lots scheduled to open six hours before Saturday’s kickoff.
A university spokesperson told The Post there will be an increased security presence “specifically behind the visitors’ bench and in between the FAU student section.” The athletic department is working with both the FAU police and the school’s security partners.
“Safety of our students and our visitors is and will remain a top priority and we will work to ensure that in our new student section,” the university spokesperson said.
Players always emphasize needing to stay focused when the game comes. That doesn’t change, several told The Post, even with students screaming at them from a few feet away.
“It has nothing to do with us,” said Florida International linebacker Sage Lewis. “We come there to play football, so wherever the student section is, they could be right behind our bench, it doesn’t matter.”
Follow @JakeElman97 on Twitter