Major college football programs nationwide continue to battle declining student attendance, and local schools are no exception.
At home games in both Norman and Stillwater this season, large, noticeable blocks of the student sections have been empty on multiple occasions.
Oklahoma senior center Gabe Ikard said the student section — good or bad — is one of the first thing players notice at every home game.
“There's always a comment about it, whether it's good or bad,” Ikard said. “You'll talk about how rowdy the student section is that day.”
Even in the football-crazed South, student attendance is a problem.
Alabama coach Nick Saban penned an open letter to students before this season, imploring them to show up and stick around.
Then in October, after Saban complained about students leaving in the second half of blowouts, the university suspended the block seating privileges of 20 student organizations for a game.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State haven't taken steps like that, but the two schools definitely deal with similar problems when it comes to student attendance.
OU has sold out its entire student section allotment in every season since Bob Stoops took over in 1999. This year, the school allotted 8,000 seats for students.
An OU spokesman said that because student tickets are general admission seats, he couldn't provide specific attendance numbers.
“I think a lot of students treat it more as a social event rather than a football game,” said 20-year old OU junior Andrew Roberts, who has purchased student tickets the past three seasons.
The problem was especially apparent when the Sooners hosted Tulsa at 11 a.m. on Sept. 14.
“Sometimes I feel like having an opponent like Tulsa at 11 a.m. is not quite as appealing a game,” Roberts said.
“Last year at the Notre Dame game, I couldn't get a spot. The student section was too full so I had to go sit with my family. I really think it depends on the opponent and pregame hype.”
Anthony Poplin, an 18-year-old OU freshman, has gone to every home game and stayed until it ended, but he said several of his friends leave early for a variety of reasons.
“Especially if it's a night game, some of my friends want to get to parties, and some of them just don't want to deal with traffic,” Poplin said.
Oklahoma State, meanwhile, allocated 13,000 seats inside Boone Pickens Stadium this year for student season tickets, but the average student attendance has been just 65 percent.
“That kind of bothers me, but we haven't really had a huge game here yet,” said 18-year old OSU freshman Logan Wright.
Saturday morning, when Oklahoma hosts Iowa State on Senior Day, Ikard said he hopes the student section will be full and lively.
“I know it's an 11 a.m. game against an opponent that we've traditionally played really well against,” Ikard said. “We're just looking for the people to come out and show us some support.
“There are some seniors who have never played a down. There are some seniors who only play special teams. There's some seniors who have been scout team guys their entire careers. But there are a lot of great guys that deserve some appreciation and support from the fans for what they've done for the program.”