Cal Athletics offers free football games for freshman fans

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This Saturday’s football game against Sacramento State should experience an influx in student attendance, as freshmen are now allowed free admission to every home football game this season.

The Freshman Free program waives the $99 season pass fee for all members of the class of 2018 and is the result of efforts by Cal Athletics and campus groups to better engage with students and increase gameday attendance.

More than 2,600 freshmen have already signed up for the program, which has not been offered since 2008, and Cal Athletics expects that number to continue to rise, according to Herb Benenson, assistant athletic director.

“We thought that by removing any and all barriers to connect, including charging for tickets, it would give us a huge opportunity to connect with first-year students in a meaningful way,” Benenson said in an email.

Although the initiative was primarily launched with the goal of creating a long-term fanbase, the athletic department also hopes the incentive will lead to an active and full student section during games, according to Benenson.

For freshman Kelly Keiko, who downloaded her season pass after hearing about the Freshman Free program on the Class of 2018 Facebook page, the free tickets provide motivation to attend a game, even though she is not a fan of the sport.

“I definitely wouldn’t have gone before, because football isn’t really my interest, but because we have this opportunity now I think it’s a good way to build school spirit and better relationships,” Keiko said.

Although Keiko and many other first years have taken advantage of the free pass, freshman Julian Gruber said the program will not be enough to draw all types of students to the game.

“I know students who just don’t like football and still aren’t going to go to the games,” said Gruber. “Some of my floormates just aren’t sports people.”

Along with the program, Cal Athletics has decided to allow all students to enter through any gate at Memorial Stadium. Cal Athletics consulted many students about the gameday experience and found that increasing available entrances was a common area for improvement, said Ashwin Puri, associate athletic director.

Given the absence of a designated student gate, UCPD will now monitor all main entrances and continue to enforce the school’s alcohol policy, according to UCPD Lt. Marc DeCoulode. UCPD and Cal Athletics hope the gate change, along with the Freshman Free program, will make game attendance more convenient for football fans.

“This is definitely going to help build excitement,” said Derek Schatz, chairman of the UC Rally Committee. “Athletic culture is a huge part of this university, and there are 6,000 new students here who want to experience it.”

Chloee Weiner is the lead campus life reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @_chloeew .