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Logan • With several solid seasons behind them, the return of Chuckie Keeton and the exposure of being in a larger conference, the interest and buzz around Utah State football has increased this year.
Surprisingly the interest hasn't translated into more ticket sales.
The Aggies are expecting to sell about 9,000 season tickets this year, which is about 1,000 less than they sold for 2013.
The slight dip has athletic director Scott Barnes a little perplexed.
"We'll have to figure out why that is," he said. "Given the state of the program, it is a little disappointing."
Barnes is comforted in the fact that the school's tracking system shows the Aggies haven't lost as many season-ticket buyers as they have the number of tickets bought. Many fans are buying two or four season tickets this year instead of six or more in years past.
"We're keeping our loyal fan base, and that is important," he said. "In 2008, we only had about 4,200 season-ticket holders. To get where we are now, to some degree the customer base has stabilized."
Greg Stephens, a season-ticket holder who lives in Salt Lake, was one of those who bought fewer tickets this year because he and his wife had a baby and didn't want to expose the newborn to cold November games. However, he still supports the Aggies and also buys a $60 junior Aggie ticket for his son.
"My son enjoys that program quite a bit, " he said.
One reason there could be fewer sold this season is the lack of a local marquee game on the schedule.
Most seasons, the Aggies have had Utah or BYU on the home schedule, but to Barnes' disappointment, the Utes don't have room for them in their schedule and the Aggies are at BYU this season.
The Aggies also travel to Colorado State and Boise State, which are expected to be two of the better league opponents.
That means Saturday's 5 p.m. matchup with Wake Forest is about the closest thing Utah State has to a big-time opponent playing in Romney Stadium this year.
Wake Forest is only the seventh Bowl Championship Series team to visit Logan since 1952, but the Demon Deacons haven't had a winning season since 2008, making them not quite as hot of a ticket as others might be.
"At some point, you hope the schedule becomes less important than just supporting the team and being a part of Aggie football no matter who you play, but we aren't quite there yet," Barnes said. "But we're also facing a lot of the same challenges others across the country are facing, too. Games are available digitally and on TV so you have to find ways to entice people to come and watch it live and be a part of the fan experience."
The Aggies are working to boost that fan experience in several ways. The future stadium renovations include new video boards and a sound system. New this year is a beefed-up tailgate experience with more food vendors and pre-game festivities.
The Aggies are also considering going to a completely reserved general admission section too, Barnes said.
"We want to create more ownership," he said of the seating.
Even with the slight dip, Barnes is hopeful the Aggies can reach a season-ticket base of 15,000. Right now, season-ticket revenue only makes up about $1.5 million of the school's $25 million athletic budget, but it's important to have a strong base to foster loyalty and steady attendance. It also looks good for recruiting, Barnes acknowledged.
"Two years ago, we were at 6,800, and then we went to 10,000 last year, so even though we dipped a bit this year, we are trending in the right direction," he said.
Wake Forest at Utah State
O Saturday, 5 p.m.
TV • CBS Sports