Has Bronco Stadium outgrown Bronco Nation? It certainly appears so.
Boise States current football ticket dilemma sits at the intersection of supply and demand and perception and reality.
Here is the demand: More fans than ever before are going to newly expanded Bronco Stadium, which has hosted its first, second, third, fourth and sixth largest crowds of all-time this season. Boise State will set a single-season attendance record this year.
Here is the supply: The school is resorting to gimmicks to lure those large crowds, selling 2-for-1 ticket packages to fans and giving free guest tickets to employees.
Here is the perception: When I got here 10 months ago, Boise State Athletic Director Mark Coyle said, the perception was that were sold out of every game.
And here is the reality: Just one game this season (BYU) has sold out. As of Friday afternoon, more than 2,000 tickets were available for Saturdays Senior Day home finale against Colorado State. Bronco Stadiums capacity is listed at 37,000 (a number that may well beinflated), and the Broncos have yet to hit that number for official attendance.
Each empty seat is lost revenue, revenue needed to not only pay for previous expansion but future growth as well.
Weve been much more aggressive in terms of trying to market things via social media, through traditional media, trying to get fans exposed to Bronco football and let them know we do have some seats available to the game, Coyle said.
Coach (Chris) Petersen talks about it all the time. Our fans play such a huge role for us at home. Our goal is to get everybody in there and get that place loud and rockin.
Petersen went out of his way to ask for crowd noise before the BYU game and then praised the fans for their effort after the victory.
No one, though, has ever questioned the fans intensity or voices. What is of issue now is their sheer numbers or, at least, their willingness to spend dollars to visit Bronco Stadium.
The slate of visiting teams hasnt helped either.
BYU and the occasional Pac-12 opponent (Washington in 2015, Washington State in 2016) will produce sellouts. San Diego State, having beaten the Broncos at home, might attract a full house in the future.
If new Big East foes Louisville or Cincinnati or Rutgers come to Boise with a high national ranking, they will generate enough buzz to fill the stadium. If Boise State were to host a Big East Championship Game with a BCS berth on the line next year, then 37,000 seats wont be nearly enough for the number of fans that want in.
But the majority of Big East teams, like the majority of Mountain West foes, simply wont attract the casual fans needed to fill the stadium.
So Bronco Stadium expansion a presumed certainty for years doesnt seem like a no-brainer anymore. You cant expand the stadium for one game a year.
You always want every nook and cranny filled, absolutely. And I think when that happens around here, then you can talk about growing this program even more, Petersen said. But (stadium expansion) is not going to happen until that thing is truly packed. (It costs) so much money and theres not a need for it.
Even with the Broncos at 8-2 and, until that loss to San Diego State, in the hunt for a BCS appearance.
Even with tickets available and (fairly) reasonably priced, especially for fans who took advantage of the 2-for-1 deals the school offered for San Diego State and Colorado State.
Schools across the country are having the same situation weve got, where youve got some open seats, Coyle said. I think youve got to be aggressive trying to sell those tickets and obviously getting people in the building to experience it. ... Weve got such great fans and such a strong fan base and a loyal fan base and were just trying to continue to grow that fan base.
For now, though, Boise State is at a crossroads. As more fans than ever come to Bronco Stadium, the Broncos are still searching for more. Do they just need to be exposed? Are they persuadable with deals? Are they waiting for better opponents? Are they even out there?
When they find them, then it will be time to talk stadium expansion.