Fresno State has slowly built its student attendance at basketball games by giving away iPads, cameras and parking passes. But its latest promotion could fill every one of those 2,000 student seats at the Save Mart Center for the remaining men’s and women’s home games.
Through a donation from a booster, the athletic department will be awarding four $10,000 checks to students to be used toward tuition, books and educational expenses — two at the March 4 men’s game against Air Force and two at the March 6 women’s game against Boise State.
“The biggest difference for us, to the best of our knowledge, we can’t find anybody else that has done this type of promotion where somebody will actually win,” said Paul Ladwig, senior associate athletics director/external relations. “There has been a couple of half-court shots for $1 million and stuff like that, but it’s a chance. Obviously, there will be four students who will walk away with four separate $10,000 checks, and it’s as simple as coming to the Save Mart Center.”
Students can enter the contest at each of the remaining home basketball games — the more they attend and entries they submit, the greater their chances of winning.
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At both March games, two female and two male students will be selected and in 30 seconds will shoot from five designated spots on the floor with different point values. The female and male with the highest point total will each win $10,000. If there were a tie, the prize would be split.
“It will be interesting. Obviously we’ll have like 10 points at half court, and if time is running down and somebody would put up a shot from half court and drop 10 points in and win it on a shot like that …,” Ladwig said. “But if you can stand under the basket and you can score 30 layups in 30 seconds and get as many points as you can … it will be interesting to watch the strategy of the students and try to figure out: How can you score the most points from the five scoring areas?”
Either way, at least four students will win.
“They’ll walk away with some real usable dollars to put toward their educational needs,” Ladwig said.
The promotion is part of a series that has spurred attendance. During the last month of the regular season, the rest of the fan base will be rewarded as well.
On Saturday, when the men plays Boise State, 16 fans, with students eligible, too, will receive $100 gift cards to Campagnia restaurant. At the Feb. 18 game against Colorado State, 16 Save Mart grocery gift cards worth $100 will be given away. And at the March 4 game against Air Force, two fans will have a chance to grab a share of $2,000 in a money machine.
At the next women’s game, Feb. 21 against Utah State, two fans will have a go inside the money machine. At the Feb. 25 game against Wyoming, 16 more Save Mart cards will be given away. At the March 6 game against Boise State, there will be another money machine giveaway.
“It’s pretty tremendous when you receive a text message from a donor who says I want to do something special during this basketball season and I want to do some things that will help increase the fan base for the general public and the students and I want to do something incredibly special on the student side,” Ladwig said. “I got a text message one night saying exactly that.”
The total financial commitment from the donor, who has asked to remain anonymous, is about $65,000.
So far, it is having the desired effect. The Bulldogs averaged 5,463 at their first seven men’s games at the Save Mart Center but had 8,118 for a Jan. 17 game against Wyoming, 7,945 for a Jan. 24 victory over Nevada and 5,550 for a Feb. 4 victory over San Jose State.
Fresno State ranks sixth among the Mountain West’s 11 schools in home attendance at 5,985 per game.
“Where we’ve seen the dramatic growth, so far, is obviously the student section at the men’s basketball games,” Ladwig said. “The student section hasn’t looked like this in a long time and we know that when the student section is filled, the atmosphere in the building totally changes. Obviously, the students sit down at the end of the Save Mart Center where the visiting team is so when it’s loud and when they’re having fun and when the band is playing, it just adds that excitement to what’s going on in the game and the building feeds off the student section.
“The other thing that we’d like to be able to do, for the students coming to the men’s games, we’d like to get them to the women’s games as well, and obviously this promotion is geared toward coming to all the basketball games, men’s and women’s.”