ASU set a new record in football on Thursday.
No, its 55-0 win over Sacramento State wasn’t the first blowout or the most lopsided by any means.
And, as dominant as redshirt junior quarterback Taylor Kelly’s performance was, nothing about it set a school record.
Instead, ASU sold 13,472 student season tickets before Thursday — the most in school history. The previous record was 10,352 students last season.
ASU coach Todd Graham was so pleased with the student sections’ presence in Thursday’s game, he went out of his way to acknowledge them in his post-game press conference.
“I was very, very excited about our students,” Graham said. “I think that was the most that has ever attended a game. They were packed in there, and I was really, really fired up about that.”
Senior safety Alden Darby said he’s definitely noticed a difference in the student section since his first season in 2010. He said the student section was so loud during the first series of Thursday’s game against Sacramento State, the ASU defense could barely communicate.
“I heard them,” Darby said. “I heard them rocking, too. I can only imagine how they’re going to be this week (against Wisconsin).”
ASU media relations announced Sunday that less than 7,000 tickets were available six days before the Sun Devils’ blackout game vs. Wisconsin this Saturday.
Associate athletic director William Kennedy helps coordinate student attendance at all sports and monitors sales and attendance numbers. He said in 2010, student attendance was an average of 5,333 fans per game and grew to an average of 7,228 students per game in 2012.
ASU started 2013 with 8,931 fans in attendance for an opener that pitted the Sun Devils against an FCS opponent.
Kennedy said one of the biggest factors has been Graham’s effort to involve students in the 21 months he’s been at ASU.
“Certainly Coach Graham has made a big difference,” Kennedy said. “He has been, by far and away, the most accessible football coach I have worked with. He does multiple student events each year on all four of the campuses to meet and speak to students.”
It’s not just football that has been seeing a surge in student attendance, but rather the entire athletic department.
The influx of fans in other sports started with men’s basketball in 2012-13. Last season was the inauguration of the 942 Crew, whose goal was to pack the entire 942-seat student section at Wells Fargo Arena during every home game.
Kennedy said the student section was at 101 percent capacity during the spring semester and that the highest turnout for one game was 1,515 students.
Almost every student attendance record for ASU men’s basketball was shattered and had five of the six largest crowds in program history.
Of course, it helped that the Sun Devils had a dramatic turnaround on the hardwood and nearly made the NCAA Tournament last season.
Still, Kennedy said the same spirit is carrying over into football and even the smaller sports should expect a rise in student attendance as well.
“Having a team that has good players, wins and is fun to watch certainly helps sell the experience of coming to the games,” Kennedy said. “Our other sports also share in that success. All of our teams compete for championships and are fun to watch and our students are starting to come out to support those sports as well, in particular women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, women’s soccer and softball.”
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