Football ticket sales trending in right direction but lagging behind expectations
Storrs — In the near future, the UConn football team will play in front of a full house at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
UConn athletic director David Benedict is convinced that a sellout will happen.
Football ticket sales was a topic of conversation during Benedict's remarks to the media on Tuesday.
With the Big 12 Conference deciding against expansion, UConn remains on the outside of the Power Five conferences. Now is the time for fans to support the team, according to Benedict, no matter the opponent. The additional revenue is needed going forward to help fund athletics.
"All of this is a process," he said. "You can't expect things to change overnight. I am committed, our staff is committed to digging in and doing the things that are necessary, getting out and engaging people to see that process through.
"I believe, in the near future, we're going to have that place sold out. ... We have the best tailgating culture that I've seen with respect to the campuses that I've been to in the (American Athletic) conference. Our fans do a tremendous job on Game Day that are showing up. We just need more people to get involved."
The Huskies have yet to come close to filling a stadium that holds 40,000. Through four home games, they're averaging 29,120, with a high of 31,899 against Syracuse on Sept. 24 and a low of 24,169 against Cincinnati on Oct. 8.
Attendance average is higher than the previous two seasons when UConn drew an average of 25,872 fans in 2015 and 26,435 fans in 2014 but lagging behind the 33,083 in 2013.
"It's not the type of attendance that I think we deserve or need to have to build our football program," Benedict said. "I think our attendance is trending in the right way. ... The students have shown up more significantly than they have in the past, so I like what I'm seeing. But I'm not happy with where we're at.
"We're not going to stop until every single seat is filled."
Of course, fans are more likely to turn out for a winning team than one with a 3-4 record.
Coach Bob Diaco is focused on leading his team, not the number of fans in the stands. He regularly thanks the crowd after home games.
"I'm definitely not looking in the stands," Diaco said. "I'm engaged with the players and engaged with the coaches and I'm looking at the field of play so my eyes never travel up. ... Visually and from a sound stand point for me, I found it to be very hard to take in the crowd. That's probably a good thing."
The Huskies have three home games remaining, including Saturday at noon against Central Florida.
Bad news for Hopkins
• Starting offensive left guard Tommy Hopkins is out for the season after suffering a lower leg injury in Saturday's 42-27 loss at South Florida.
"He's a heck of a player," Diaco said.
It's been a tough season for Hopkins who missed four games with an injury before returning to the lineup against Cincinnati on Oct. 8. He helped solidify the line and showed leadership skills.
"Tommy is a great player and a great guy to have on the team," junior tight end Alec Bloom said. "It's terrible that anyone gets injured. The next man up has got to come in and perform just the same as he was in."
Either redshirt junior Brendan Vechery or junior Trey Rutherford, who both subbed for Hopkins during his first absence, will get the starting nod on Saturday.
"We need to create a competitive situation for both those guys this week and see just exactly how that shakes out," Diaco said.
News and notes
• Sophomore Hergy Mayala (lower leg), the team's second leading receiver with 16 catches, is listed as day-to-day. ... Three of UConn's four losses came on the road against top 30 teams, according to Diaco. ... A positive from Saturday's loss? "I love that we didn't turn the football over," Diaco said. "It was a major emphasis point." ... UConn has forced five turnovers in the last two games. ... The Huskies are among the nation's leaders in fewest penalties per game (tied for third at 3.43) and fewest penalty yards per game (second averaging 29). ... Senior wide receiver Noel Thomas ranks fourth in the country with 9.6 receptions per game.