University of Alabama students received an email Monday priming them for the upcoming football season in terms of ticket packaging and individual game pricing. At the end of the email came a one-paragraph introduction to Tide Loyalty Points, a new program designed to keep students from vacating their seats late during games at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Student attendance attrition is a nationwide problem. In Tuscaloosa, where winning has become predictable, the problem has drawn pointed criticism from head football coach Nick Saban starting in 2013 and again last October. After an 11 a.m. game against Louisiana Lafayette turned into a 56-14 Alabama rout, Saban used his weekly Wednesday press conference to sound off. "Look, our players work too hard and they deserve to have everything and people supporting them in every way and have tremendous spirit for what they’ve done," he said. "And they might not be able to continue to do it and we're going to work hard to continue that, but there's a part of it that other people need to support them, too. And there has to be a spirit that makes it special to play here because that's what makes it special to be here. And if that's not here, does it continue to be special to be here or not? That's the question everybody has to ask and I’m asking it right now."
In the past, the Alabama athletic department answered by docking students points for purchasing a student Action card and then not using it, thus jeopardizing their ability to purchase post-season tickets. Last fall, the school even resurrected the controversial tradition of playing "Dixieland Delight" by the country supergroup Alabama during the fourth quarter to keep students engaged.
According to AL.com, the Tide Loyalty Points program appears to be a joint response from Alabama athletics and the student government to address Saban’s concerns and incentivize committed attendance. "Through the Tide Loyalty Points program, students will earn points for attending home football games and for their support in the 4th quarter," the email read. "Those points will contribute to students' priority access to regular and postseason tickets."
It doesn't explain how each individual's fourth-quarter loyalty will actually be tracked, however, and AB's efforts to reach the Alabama athletic department were unsuccessful as of this writing.