The Fairfield University Department of Athletics launched a project which has become common for sports franchises of all calibers ever since crowds haven’t been able to fill the stands due to COVID-19. Fan cardboard cutouts will be available for purchase in lieu of in-person attendance at the 2020-2021 men’s and women’s basketball home games at Alumni Hall.
With a flat rate of $60, Stags fans can upload a photo of themselves to be printed and placed in the seats to watch their favorite teams play. I understand why this project came about; without ticket sales, the marketing department needed to find other ways to not only create revenue, but to engage fans.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity for fans to be represented at games… It looked like a cool engagement opportunity for people near and far,” said Zach Dayton, deputy director of athletics. “There are also groups of people that live far away from campus that are Fairfield Stags fans, and this is a way for them to get involved in game day that they haven’t done before.”
My biggest issue with this idea stems from my perspective as a student. This initiative seems to be geared primarily towards alumni donors who seek to stay involved with Fairfield athletics. To adults with steady incomes, this project is a fantastic idea! $60 is a perfectly acceptable donation to make to the program, plus it comes with perks like having your face seen on television in the crowd, even potentially during a commercial on an ESPN broadcast when the games are aired. Even more perks are doled out to those who buy cutouts in bulk.
Boston College is selling cutouts similar to Fairfield’s for sports like football and field hockey, for $25. Providence College is selling theirs at $50 for basketball games, plus they offer a $10 discount for season ticket holders
Dayton said that the price point was determined by surveying the industry, acknowledging that some schools charged more while others charged less. I am not shocked to find that Fairfield is on the higher end of this range; however, I can see how they would settle on the price tag considering the well-known generosity of our alumni network.
$5 from each sale will go towards the Fairfield University Athletic Director’s Fund, which surely contributed to the price. According to the school’s website, the fund serves the purpose of enhancing the lives of student-athletes inside and outside of the classroom. Some projects that the fund has contributed to already are the academic center and fueling station within the Thomas J. Walsh, Jr. Athletic Center and gear packages for the athletes. Dayton mentioned that this is something that dedicated fans are really enthusiastic about.
“We are constantly fundraising in order to build a championship-caliber experience for our student-athletes,” said Dayton.
In all fairness, athletics offered the opportunity for students to enter to win a free cutout of themselves through a contest held on their official Instagram page. Nonetheless, to me, this project is catered far less to students who are mourning the loss of watching their peers on the court, and more towards donors willing to meet the financial demands of the program.