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Driving away with the ultimate Perk

USF will award a 2019 Ford EcoSport SE as the grand prize of its Herd Perks Student Rewards app. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

Anyone who’s ever taken a sick day has likely sat on their couch and watched “The Price is Right,” likely with jealousy as contestants jump for joy over the prospect of winning a new car.

Not a bad haul for playing a few games of Plinko.

However, this summer, one extremely lucky USF student will take home “A NEW CAR,” as you might hear on the long-running CBS show, simply for showing up to USF Athletics events.

Eat your heart out, Drew Carey.

USF will award a 2019 Ford EcoSport SE as the grand prize of its Herd Perks Student Rewards app. Students receive points for checking in on the app at USF games and other events — like live coaches radio shows and other events.

If this large of a grand prize seems like a new thing, that’s because it is. Prior to this year, the app, which has been for around four years, was more of an afterthought.

“It wasn’t something where it was extremely engaging,” USF Athletics Director of Marketing Dustin Schumacher said. “The prizes would be a pair of sunglasses or a hat, things like that. It was more of an afterthought marketing piece.

“So when we came in, we’re like, ‘Hey, we have this cool tool to impact the students directly. It’s something that we can hopefully get some more engagement. What’s some of the things that we think would drive student interest?’”

The car will be awarded by taking the top 25 attendees at the end of the year and putting them in a random drawing.

“That way, we’re not just assigning, ‘Oh, you’ve been to every game’ — which we love,” Schumacher said. “That way we’re not disheartening to any other fans that may feel like it’s a little too difficult to earn a car. They all have a chance.”

In addition to having the app revamped in the interest of user friendliness, Schumacher and his staff reached out to USF Athletics’ corporate partners to see what they could come up with to make the app more rewarding.

While the EcoSport — which the winning student will have to cover tax, title, registration and other usual fees associated with purchasing a car — is the ultimate grand prize for the entire academic year, there are other large prizes as well, all thanks to USF’s partners.

“We were able to secure the car for the season-long winner,” Schumacher said. “We talked to Aramark, who does all the food service on campus — we got a $500 in Dining Dollars prize. We have a spring break trip from Hilton and Delta that’s coming up. We have a textbook scholarship from the USF Bookstore.

“A lot of our partners were like, ‘Hey, this is really cool. We want to do our part to help,’ because I think everyone sees the potential of this, and this year is the first year of the building block — it’s growing. Everyone sees the potential of this becoming a one-stop shop for all USF students of what’s going on on campus.”

The winner of the fall sports season (soccer, volleyball and football) won the $500 Dining Dollars, while the winner of winter sports (primarily basketball) will win the aforementioned spring break trip with Delta and Hilton. The spring sports winner (baseball, softball, golf, track and tennis) will win the $500 textbook scholarship.

The season prizes will be awarded similarly to the grand prize, though they will only contain the names of the top 10 rather than the top 25. While a student who wins a season prize is not eligible to win another season’s prize (for example, the fall winner cannot win the winter prize), they remain eligible for the car.

There are other smaller prizes, like bobbleheads and car flags available on the app, in addition to the big prizes.

Engagement on the app since the new version was released has been trending upward, with about 1,200 or so new users signing up, according to Schumacher.

Attendance for basketball also seems to be showing signs of improvement.

Student attendance for men’s basketball is up 63 percent (an average of +191) from last season — and that’s before Saturday’s War on I-4 matchup with UCF, which will likely increase that. Women’s basketball is down 26 percent (an average of -92). However, UConn, which drew 872 students — the most of any opponent — has yet to visit the Yuengling Center this season. 

Football was not comparable due to the relative late start USF Athletics had in promoting the revamped app due to its release late in the season.

Not only is student attendance up — at least for men’s basketball — but so is appreciation from the students, at least according to random interviews conducted by The Oracle at a recent women’s basketball game.

“That’s awesome of USF to support students like that,” freshman Elizabeth Laburda said. “I like how USF tries to engage students in activities outside of academics.”

It might not be the most important thing on the minds when coming to a game for students like sophomore Chris Miklaszewski, but it is on their minds in some way.

“I have used it, but it has not been something that is very prominent in my mind when I come to a game,” Miklaszewski said. “But every time I’ve been to a football game, I check into the app, take care of the points and then go back and enjoy the game.”

However, some students didn’t know the grand prize was a car, like sophomore Gracie Heath.

“Oh my God,” Heath said when informed of the grand prize.

A brand new car just for going to games deserves that kind of response.

No Plinko required.