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How to Fix Mississippi State’s Student Section and Ticket Issue for Men’s Basketball

Mississippi State has a serious seating issue that is affecting the atmosphere of Humphrey Coliseum and the look of the arena on TV.

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Mississippi State
The Upper Deck of the Student Section is mostly empty in last Saturday’s game vs South Carolina
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret that Mississippi State has had a seating issue at Humphrey Coliseum. This issue has been largely ignored due to the fact that the product on the floor over the past 6 years has not led to a large demand of tickets. But now that Mississippi State is winning, these lower bowl seats are not being filled like everyone claimed would happen once Mississippi State started to win. That tells me that there is a bigger issue on hand that winning simply is not going to solve. As someone who has been to more than half of the SEC’s Basketball Arenas, I understand what it takes to have a great atmosphere for College Basketball. Let’s layout exactly what the issue is, and how I propose to fix the issue at hand.

One of the biggest issues is that the TV Cameras often focus on seats that are empty in the lower deck of Mississippi State Basketball Games. And to think, former First Round, Top 10 Pick Joakim Noah once called the Humphrey Coliseum the toughest place to play in the SEC. Just look at the empty seats today:

Screenshot of a TV Broadcast shows many empty lower deck seats. Visible for anyone who is watching on TV.

And this is a Saturday Basketball game for a 20 win Mississippi State Team. It makes no sense to save Prime Seating for the Season Ticket Holders who are simply not showing up. It is time for a new group of fans who will be at every game to show up.

According to a 2009 Article by the Reflector, then Athletic Director Greg Byrne changed the student section in order to gain an additional $15,860 dollars from season ticket holders for better seating. This was a significant amount at the time, but Mississippi State now has a 100 Million Dollar Athletic Budget, not a Mid 30 Million Dollar Athletic Budget like they did in 2009. $16,000 is simply not worth the current dead atmosphere Humphrey Coliseum suffers from game to game. I doubt anyone argues with that. Former Athletic Director, Scott Stricklin, later adjusted the student section to it’s current form to help “unify” the student section by moving the students from the opposite goal line to the upper deck. Here is how the current seating chart at Humphrey Coliseum looks:

As you can see, Students currently have the west goal line along with 10 upper deck sections. Why is a SEC Basketball Arena putting their students in the upper deck of an arena? You cannot make a difference as a student being in the upper deck. Students need to be the ones leading the crowd. That is what happens at Duke, Michigan State, or the best student section in the SEC: Auburn. Check it out:

As you can see. the Auburn student section surrounds the court, and makes a difference when you are shooting a free throw on either side. This allows the perfect TV Angle to focus on the standing, loud, and rowdy students. This is also why Auburn unfortunately has replaced Mississippi State as having the toughest arena in the SEC.

Auburn Arena is less than 10 years old, and was designed with the intention of having less empty seats on TV. Having their students closest to the court was the smartest idea as well. They are the ones that will make the most noise. And as you can see,the pink separates the students and the season ticket holders. This still gives season ticket holders prime seats, while also ensuring that the arena will have an intimidating atmosphere. Auburn’s arena best emulates Duke’s Cameron Indoor Arena, who is often touted as having the best student section in college basketball. There is 0 doubt that student section seating and attendance go hand and hand.

Note: Orange is where the Band currently Stands

It took me less than 5 minutes to come up with a rough outline of what my proposed new seating chart looks like. Completely get rid of students in the upper deck, surround the students across both goal lines, and still give season ticket holders prime seats. I do know that some seating areas would need to be adjusted, this is just a rough outline. The SEC has a rule that does not allow students behind the visitor’s bench, so I also drew the yellow line to show where the home and visiting benches would be.

This isn’t a hard fix. But sitting back and acting like everything is great while thousands of empty seats remain game after game is not the solution. I challenge the Mississippi State Administration to fix this obvious issue. It is apparent they know there is an issue too:

They want fans in the stands, not just sold out tickets. Awesome. Fix the seating and the lower bowl will be filled again. It is apparent that Auburn Arena’s atmosphere has led to their incredible season. If State has their students in the lower bowl, then Kentucky loses last season and Auburn loses this season in the Humphrey Coliseum.

So do you really want a Packed, Loud intimidating Hump for EVERY game? The solution is simple, prioritize your local fans, not your out of state fans who may or may not show up every other year for Kentucky. Our fans will follow the lead of our students. Our students just need to be up and close to the action to make a difference every game. If a non traditional Basketball school like Auburn can fill up their lower deck student section for every game, Mississippi State will too. I, along with many others, want to see Mississippi State have a rocking home atmosphere once again. Mississippi State can create a culture for their students like you saw in the 1990’s and early 2000’s when student seating was a priority. It is time to get back to what made Humphrey Coliseum the toughest place to play in the SEC.

I understand that there are plans for a major renovation, but that could be 10 years from now. That is simply too long to wait. State can fix seating next season. The question is will they? Or is $16,000 too much for a 100 Million Dollar Athletic Department to turn down?