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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    Rentschler Field: Home of the whopper

    Today’s existential question comes to us from Rentschler Field, home of the UConn football program:

    What is the truth?

    Certainly no match for the roar. Turns out Churchill was right when he said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

    And there was a whopper last week during UConn football’s home opener when the announced attendance was 36,526. The lie would have traveled the Churchillian distance had a little birdie not whispered to your humble narrator that the “turnstile” number, or actual tickets scanned, was 23,188.

    Embellishing attendance numbers is the second-oldest profession behind, well, the oldest one. (The Yankees, for example, announced 31,553 Tuesday night at the Stadium, which appeared to be fiction ready to rival “The Great Gatsby.”) Besides, most venues announce attendance numbers through tickets sold or distributed, not actual butts in the seats.

    Understood. But summoning our inner Bob Barker — “closest to the actual retail price without going over” — UConn went over by 13,338. That merits a buzzer on “The Price Is Right.” It gets a shrug here in Connecticut.

    I posted the discrepancy to social media Monday and was gloriously entertained by the UConn fandom’s greatest hits. Attack me, call me a liar and a fraud, make fun of Boston College, the size of The Day’s circulation. They even found some things I wrote in my college newspaper from 33 years ago. (No, really.)

    But then a funny thing happened amid all the non sequiturs. We got to the truth. Many fans posted to social media that their tickets hadn’t been scanned at all. They just walked in. Seems there was a mad dash to the gates a few minutes before kickoff and the ticket takers/ushers/scanning folks got overwhelmed. It at least helped explain why the Rent looked as though it had more than 23,188, but surely fewer than 36,526.

    The Day did a deep dive into attendance numbers about six years after Rentschler opened and discovered that according to the State’s Office of Policy and Management (OPM), the entity to which UConn reports ticket sales and revenue, the seating area at the Rent (what TV cameras show) is about 36,000. The sellout figure of 40,000 includes luxury box attendees, band members, media, teams, concession workers, police and anyone else in the footprint of the stadium.

    I was a paying customer Thursday night and figured about 30,000 showed up. UConn could have simply announced 30,000. Instead, it went full Pinocchio.

    This is a prologue for two issues UConn (and the appropriate state officials) should address, certainly more than its cursory efforts during Tuesday’s media session. 1) Embellishing attendance numbers is one thing. But by almost 14,000 people? We get that UConn football must portray a certain image. But to the point of liar, liar pants on fire? 2) If many of us are correct and there were about 30,000 butts in the seats, that means somewhere around 7,000 tickets went unscanned.

    Is that going to happen the next time UConn draws a large crowd?

    Did the people whose tickets went unscanned also avoid the metal detectors?

    How is it possible they were that unprepared?

    Full disclosure: I was happy to shell out a few bucks last Thursday to celebrate college football’s return. Plus, a full house at Rentschler is good for all of us, especially those of us in media companies. Successful teams means more interest, clicks and subscriptions.

    But the reality is that I could have saved the $100 on my credit card for the tickets and simply walked in. Just wait for the mad rush. It happened for a few thousand people. I’m guessing they’d all bought tickets. But with today’s penchant for dishonesty, I hope the folks are better prepared for the home game against Duke in a few weeks.

    UConn’s next home game is Sept. 16 against Florida International, which sounds more like an insurance company than a school. Still, I wonder if in the spirit of “I’m 6-foot-3, 215 pounds,” UConn doesn’t announce the attendance at 52,976.

    Who’d know the truth anyway?

    The truth. That old thing. It shall set you free? Ha. Good one. It’s getting more irrelevant by the day.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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