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Here's how many people didn't use their tickets to Wisconsin football home games in 2021

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UW vs. Nebraska

Running back Braelon Allen (0) scores a touchdown on a 53-yard run during the Badgers' victory against Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium on Nov. 20.

University of Wisconsin athletics officials said they weren't sure what to expect for crowd sizes when fans were allowed back into football games at Camp Randall Stadium while the pandemic continued in 2021.

The results can't be considered shocking: Ticket usage was down 8% for the season compared to 2019, and three of the seven games were among the 10 smallest crowds since 2006, when data for ticket scans started being tracked.

Only 50,729 tickets were scanned for the home finale Nov. 20, the second-lowest total of 102 games on record. UW officials forecasted a small gathering that day because it was the opening weekend of Wisconsin's gun deer hunting season, which typically has scaled down crowds.

The Badgers also had the COVID-19 pandemic to deal with in trying to bring back people to the stadium in 2021 as well as a change to digital tickets that prompted them to ask fans to arrive earlier than usual.

"So I think from where we were in the beginning of the year, we were amazingly pleased with the turnout and the support from our fans," said Brian Lucas, UW's director of football brand communications. "I mean, do we want 80,000 every game? Yeah, definitely. Absolutely. But we recognize too that, especially in the fall and even right now, we're in new territory."

The average number of tickets scanned for Badgers home football games in 2021 at 80,321-seat Camp Randall Stadium was 57,548. It's the first time in 15 seasons of data that the number has been below 60,000.

The average number of tickets distributed was 70,829 while the average announced attendance including team personnel, staff and media was 73,466.

Individual game scanner counts ranged from the Nebraska game at the low end to the Sept. 4 game against Penn State at the top. The season opener had 64,335 ticket scanned, making it the best-attended first home game since 2016. The others in that group, however, all were nonconference contests that typically have smaller crowds.

UW has used ticket scanners at gates to count the number of fans in attendance since 2006. For the first time in 2021, fans had to scan the tickets themselves using devices on pedestals as opposed to handing a ticket to an usher.

The count isn't an exact science, Lucas said, but UW doesn't think the figures are off by hundreds or thousands.

The Nov. 13 game against Northwestern drew a scanned total of 51,118, the fourth-smallest since 2006. Nos. 1 and 3 on that list are the 2015 game against Rutgers (48,289) and the 2008 game against Cal Poly (50,921), respectively.

A Sept. 11 game against Eastern Michigan had the ninth-smallest scanned total since 2006 at 55,949.

Nearly 19% of tickets distributed went unused in the 2021 season (an average of 13,282 per game), a high for the 15 seasons on record. Lucas said UW conducts surveys of ticket holders to try to determine why they didn't use tickets and when they make that decision.

For those who decide not to use tickets before the day of the game, Lucas said UW can make it easier to transfer them to someone else. And for those who decide to stay outside the stadium, UW can make it more appealing to come inside, he said.

"All of that data helps us to try to get better for next year to start putting the best product forward for people," Lucas said.

The percentages of tickets unused by students and the general public in 2021 were vastly different. Students let 11.5% of distributed tickets go unused, while 20.4% of the rest of the stadium was a no-show.


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