What a great time of year for college football fans! Thirty-five bowl games in three weeks are on tap. For those campuses that have college football, it can have a significant impact on the student union. Being at our large land-grant institution for many years, I have seen the impact this vital part of college life and culture can have on a campus, community, and the union.
A college campus, large or small, can often tie its school spirit to its athletic program in some way. Specifically, for those that have football, quite often the public or nationwide exposure to the campus culture is highlighted by football teams and their fans on a national media stage. At Virginia Tech, I have seen campus spirit change significantly in my long tenure with the union. Fifteen years ago, football was a part of campus culture but games did not sell out—we didn’t have 65,000 visitors seven Saturdays a year, and you could easily get a ticket for less than face value. In current times, all of this has changed. These new factors have impacted the campus and geographic area significantly. The campus now closes parking lots for tailgating, closes roads, and even allows staff to leave early for weekday games. Normal accepted dress for most Fridays is school spirit related.
The growth of college football also has impacted the local community significantly. As a major university residing in a small college town, local businesses now depend even more on football fans for significant annual economic impact. Every hotel for a 30-mile radius is booked well in advance. Further, as many as four new hotels have been built in recent years to accommodate the game-day crowd. For these reasons and many others, football is yet another example of needed positive relationship building between local municipalities, the campus, and the union.
Most importantly to our profession, how does college football impact the student union? In the union, football, and the spirit tied to it, has changed everything from aesthetics and programming to gaming, reservations, space usage, traffic numbers, and school spirit. The obvious tie-ins are programming related to football, which for us include a homecoming parade, union-oriented alumni reunions, the king and queen winners announced at halftime of the game, etc. But other, maybe not so obvious, influences on union programming due to football also are important to note. In our gaming center, tournaments now include college football (pro as well). We also organize the sale of spirit shirts purchased and worn by fans for specific home games. For aesthetics, our department now has a “hokie spirit” committee made up of staff and students with a budget to infuse intentional “hokie spirit” into our facilities. Other football impacts include viewing programs, altering facility hours, and increased reservations for game-related programs.
In summary, college football has a significant and growing impact on our campus, community, and student union. Student spirit around football is engrained quickly in our student body, and as a union, we are continually trying to unite our resources with this culture assuring that the union exemplifies student interest and creates desired environments. On our campus, it is safe to say that college football and the union are partners for complimenting student culture.
is the Associate Director for Student Centers and Activities at Virginia Tech.
Scott Reed oversees and directs services, operations, and facility management needs for four student center buildings. Through this role, he has overseen renovations, served on the campus sustainability committee, led safety planning for the union, and is currently co-chairing a facility management software transition team. A long time member and volunteer for ACUI, Scott received his bachelor’s in sports management from Western Carolina University and his master’s in kinesiology with a concentration in sports and recreation management from James Madison University.