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For the avid Harvard sports fan, it is easy to get discouraged by the dearth of crowd support at Crimson home games. Poor attendance and uninspired fans often plague even the most popular Harvard athletic events.
To help remedy this condition, the Harvard Athletic Department is launching an extensive program this fall--including ticket giveaways and house competitions--aimed at regenerating campus interest in sports events.
"There are so many items competing with the students for their attention and time, we felt that the University could give the students more of a push," said Jon London, an account executive at Kelly Communications, which is helping the athletic department in its promotional efforts.
"We want to let the students know that these events are still there, and they are a great opportunity for students," London said.
The Athletic Department is planning several events for the football season, the largest of which includes a competition to see which house can draw the most students to home games.
Under the plan, tables will be set up at the undergraduate entrance to Harvard Stadium where students can identify their house affiliation. The house that attracts the highest percentage of students to home football games will win tickets to the Red Sox season opener in the Spring, London said.
In addition to the ticket giveaway, several special promotional days have also been planned, said Fran Toland, associate director of athletics.
Saturday's home opener against Columbia has been designated Freshman Day, which includes a barbeque for all freshman before the game. And for the Holy Cross game--dubbed Youth Day--admission will cost only $1 for children.
The athletic department is also donating 150 tickets for each home game to the Harvard Office of Public Service, which will distribute them to various community youth programs, including HAND and Big Brother/Big Sister, London said.
These promotions, officials say, are part of a larger effort by Athletic Director Bill Cleary to revive interest in Harvard sports. The plan for the football promotions came together over the summer in meetings between Cleary, London and other members of the athletics administration.
The administrators plan to meet again in October to assess the success of the current promotions and to design activities for the winter as well said John Venesiano, director of sports information.
Already in the works is a plan to hold special basketball skills competitions between the houses during home basketball games at Briggs Cage, said London.
"What we'd like to do is bring some pride and real interest in athletics." Toland said.
Student response, so far, appears extremely positive. About 800 freshmen have already signed up for the barbeque, according to officials. And football players--the main beneficiaries of the athletic department's efforts--also seem enthusiastic about the prospect of added fan support.
"It's always fun to play in front of a lot of people." Captain John Lausch said. "Hopefully we can win some games and have people come back without the incentive."
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