While Yale Athletics has been taking advantage of the anticipation for the upcoming Yale-Harvard  football game to increase attendance for other Bulldog competitions, an analysis of turnout demonstrates inconsistent results, despite incentive policy.

Last weekend, Yale Athletics started giving out tickets for the Yale-Harvard football game as a reward for all undergraduate and graduate students who attended Eli sporting events. These competitions included field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s hockey. In only women’s hockey did attendance increase to near season highs.

“We have many successful, strong and fun programs to watch here at Yale so we are always trying to find different ways to get the word out about our Bulldogs and entice people to support our teams at different events and venues,” Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Communications Mike Gambardella said. “The Game is always a huge draw and a great way for fans and students to see more of our teams. At the women’s hockey game this past weekend, 400 students picked up their tickets at Ingalls [Rink].”

Although the ticket pickup system worked for women’s ice hockey, Yale’s turf counterpart’s results were mixed. This past Saturday, 427 people showed up to the field hockey team’s final game of the season at Johnson Field. Though the clash against Brown represented a twofold increase in turnout from other games earlier this year, it only narrowly beats attendance for the Elis’ game against Dartmouth on Oct. 19 by four people.

But also considering that a September game against a nationally ranked Harvard team only saw 212 people, there seems to be no one reason to predict support from the Yale community for field hockey.

For both men’s and women’s soccer, however, the opposing team’s name on the program does seem to draw more fans. This weekend’s games, against Brown, saw both sides’ second-highest turnouts for the season. Attendance was 750 and 612 people for the men’s and
women’s teams respectively. This is despite the fact that Saturday’s game for the men’s team was a championship-clinching event and both games had the added incentive of ticket pickup for Yale’s classic football clash.

The highest showing for both teams came in October when the Elis faced both of Harvard’s soccer teams. Name alone was not the only factor that determined these games’ turnout. The matches coincided with Yale’s Family Weekend, potentially another reason for the more than 1,000 spectators at the men’s soccer game at Reese Stadium.

Rivalry does seem to matter more in a sport like soccer when it comes to getting fans out onto the bleachers, but there is no clear reason as to why this is not the case for field hockey. Venue, tradition and location are factors that seem to increase attendance in all sports. The Game and the Yale-Harvard men’s hockey duel at Madison Square Garden are the most anticipated sporting events in terms of spectators for the year.

“Our biggest challenge probably is the perceived business of a typical Yale student, as well as an absence of sports spirit in Yale culture,” the President of the Whaling Crew Andrew Mertz ’22 said. “Yale students show out in droves for big events and it’s a fantastic time. But from my experience, students don’t feel like they have the time on a week-to-week basis to attend many sporting events, making attendance sparse, which in turn creates negative feelings for athletes and students who do attend.”

Last year’s finale to the Yale football season at Fenway Park boasted a sold-out crowd of 34,675.

“The Yale-Harvard game in Fenway was one of the most fun events of the year. It’s nice to see everyone’s pride in Yale College,” Regina De Nigris ’22 said. “Even when people don’t know anything about football it’s always a good time. I think for alumni there’s an appeal to see the game in a professional, historic sports venue like Fenway that definitely was part of it. But I think love for Yale never stops.”

The current capacity of the Yale Bowl is 61,446.


Eugenio Garza Garcia | eugenio.garzagarcia@yale.edu

Eugenio Garza García covers baseball, golf and athletic phasing. Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, he is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Economics and English.