We attended FAU’s big football game with UCF this weekend. Based on that experience we see a lot of positive signs, but there are some gaps that will hopefully be fixed. The most glaring was a failure to have an adequate supply of water and other hydrating beverages.
But let’s start with the positive. We got there a few hours before game time and the parking lots were full of people tailgating. People were well behaved and having a good time.
As a ballpark guess we’d estimate there were 20,000 fans inside the stadium for the game. It was a big crowd, making a lot of noise, and again we saw mostly good behavior and people enjoying themselves.
The game itself was a little rough. UCF crushed FAU 48-14. You have to remember that UCF is one of the best college football teams in the country. This follows FAU’s 45-21 loss to Ohio State, another big-time college football program.
While the scores don’t look good, it’s actually very impressive that FAU was able to get some stops against these high powered offenses and move the ball somewhat against very tough defenses. FAU quarterback Chris Robison did a great job getting away from pressure.
Coach Lane Kiffin and FAU Football deserve credit for taking on such strong competition early in the season. Fans have a lot to look forward to for the rest of the season and going forward into the next few years. Fans should be optimistic about how FAU will do within the less competitive Conference USA. If Kiffin can recruit just a few more top quality players that could make a world of difference.
Outside of the game itself, the event was mostly run well. There was a large police presence and the police were friendly and helpful. It’s a nice stadium and there seems to be ample parking.
Traffic management seemed to be okay on our way out. On the way in it could have been better. At 4 pm when we arrived traffic entering the campus from Spanish River Blvd was backed up creating conflict from cars coming from different directions. Despite the substantial police presence, there were no officers at that major intersection. We heard from a friend who got to the campus at 5:30 pm that traffic was so bad she didn’t get to her seat until the second quarter.
Getting into the stadium was slow going and not well organized. FAU should have more staff at the entry points, and maybe some kind of ropes or “corrals” to make this process smoother. Cell coverage was spotty as the towers were probably overwhelmed. The stadium Wifi was iffy. It worked most of the time but there were times when it said the access point was full.
The water situation was unacceptable. During the second quarter two of us went downstairs to buy some water. It was a very long wait, as you can see in the picture below.
It was a roughly 15 minute wait to get to the front of the line. We then learned that they were out of water. We were able to get a few bottles of Gatorade but they were almost out of that. I walked around while my friend waited in line. I didn’t find anywhere with better options.
This is South Florida in early September. It was 90 degrees at game time and probably hotter in the stadium. You have 20,000 people sitting out in the sun in 90 degree heat. There is not much excuse for making people wait 15 minutes to pay $3 for a 10 cent bottle of water and then running out of it.
Making this worse, it is FAU policy that fans cannot bring their own food or drinks into the game, and if they leave (to go to their cars to get water) they are not allowed back into the stadium – no reentry.
We reached out to FAU about this and to their credit they responded quickly, though we’re not fully satisfied with their answers.
Q: Why was FAU unprepared to supply water (and other hydrating drinks like Gatorade) to a crowd it knew would be so large?
A: Our concession vendors prepared for the crowds with water and other hydrating drinks, due to the large crowd we did have some stands that had to be restocked with water and other beverages throughout the game, which meant that some stands might not have had those specific beverages for a time while being restocked. Moving forward we will be taking a look at all of our concessions protocols which include looking at additional ways to provide water inside and outside of the stadium.
Note that the Subway did not appear to be restocked with water or Gatorade. We left the game in the middle of the fourth quarter and their cooler had no water and no Gatorade. To be fair to FAU, at least some responsibility for this probably falls on Subway.
Q: Is it correct that fans are not allowed to bring their own water bottles into games? If so please explain the reason for this policy.
A: There is no outside food and drink allowed in FAU Stadium but fans are allowed to bring in an empty cup to utilize the water fountains. This policy is consistent with the policies of most FBS facilities.
Notice that they did not explain the reason for this policy. It seems pretty clear that the reason is to make money selling 10 cent water bottles for three dollars, and other beverages for more. Beer vendors didn’t run out of beer, and were not selling water. Saying that other programs have the same policy is the kind of answer you’d expect from a small child.
Q: It also appears that fans can not leave (say to get water from their cars) and return to the game. Is that also correct?
A: Yes, our stadium policy is that there is no re-entry. Once you are admitted (ticket scanned) into FAU Stadium, you may not exit the stadium and re-enter using the same ticket. If you have an emergency and must depart the stadium, fans can visit the fan services locations near sections 114 and 125 where a Fan Services representative can address the situation. This policy is consistent with the policies of most FBS institutions.
No re-entry is a pretty common policy. That doesn’t mean it’s the right policy. They could make a security argument, but there was plenty of security at the stadium and no reason they can’t check people coming back in.
Q: Does FAU plan to change how it handles this in the future? If so, how?
A: With anticipation of larger crowds becoming the norm at FAU Football Stadium we will be doing a meticulous evaluation of all of our gameday policies and procedures to make sure that we are providing a first class gameday experience for our fans. Through evaluation we will make the necessary adjustments and additions to our gameday protocol.
We are hopeful FAU will follow through on this. With a million dollar a year football coach and an athletic director making $300K, FAU fans are entitled to expect better performance, and not just on the field.
I tweeted about the water issue during the game and got some response from both FAU and UCF fans.
Update: Thanks to Jake Elman we see that AD Brian White did tweet about the stadium issues. Click on the tweet and read the replies.