In terms of student turnout, tonight’s football game is the biggest in USF history.
USF surpassed its student section ticket sales record by 500 tickets Wednesday night – and that number could grow, said USF Executive Associate Athletic Director Bill McGillis.
To accommodate more than 14,000 students who will attend tonight’s USF vs. Cincinnati game at 7:30 p.m., the athletics department opened up an additional student section in the third level of Raymond James Stadium (RJS) on Wednesday.
“It’s the greatest thing we’ve ever seen before in terms of ticket sales,” McGillis said.
Third-level student tickets for tonight’s game, which will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN, are still being sold at $10. There were 200 student tickets left as of Wednesday night, McGillis said.
He said tickets are “going at a brisk pace,” but the game is not sold out yet.
“The perception gets out that the game is sold out, but we’re trying to make it clear that there are tickets available,” he said.
The initial student sections in the first and second level at RJS seat 12,501. The USF-Kansas home football game last year set the previous record of student tickets at 13,499.
Other times when USF maxed out its student ticket allotment were the West Virginia (12,496) and UCF (12,501) games in 2007.
It’s expected that there will be 14,000 to 15,000 students at the Cincinnati game, McGillis said.
USF expects more than 60,000 total attendees.
The football game, which pits two top-25 opponents against each other with Big East championship implications on the line, will be a “great platform” for the University, he said.
“It’s bigger than Athletics, bigger than the football program,” he said. “It’s going to be a three-and-a-half hour infomercial for USF.”
The coverage could enhance the University’s image, reach out to prospective students, help donor relationships and fundraisers and increase overall publicity, McGillis said.
When McGillis joined USF Athletics three years ago, he said the University was already on a “steep” trajectory in terms of the football program’s growth. The school is on a steady climb now, he said.
In the buildup to the game this week, USF Athletics hosted “Breakfast with the Bulls” with local businesses that largely employ alumni. Football players visited children at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa and Pizzo Elementary on Monday.
On Wednesday, Athletics and Student Government hosted a pep rally in the Marshall Student Center’s amphitheatre. Coaches, football players, cheerleaders, USF mascot Rocky D. Bull, SunDolls and the Herd of Thunder marching band attended the rally.
Football coaches also visited troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa on Wednesday.
A couple thousand USF “No. 1” foam fingers will be distributed in the lower level student sections at the game, among other Bulls memorabilia.
“I feel like the environment (tonight) will be the greatest environment at a USF night game,” McGillis said. “What makes me the most happy about it is it’s going to be great for our students. I’m excited for them.”