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[Bill Wells/DP File Photo] Franklin Field sits nearly three quarters empty during Penn's homecoming game against Columbia last season. A new ticketing policy may help fill the stadium's seats.

With attendance for Division I-AA college football games across the nation dropping, Penn's athletic department has initiated a new marketing campaign to bring more fans into Franklin Field during the fall.

In 2004, the average attendance for Penn's home football games was 13,170, up from 12,073 in 2003. The 2004 number ranked Penn 15th among Division I-AA schools. In three out of the past four years, however, both the Ivy League and Division I-AA saw a significant drop in attendance figures. The Ivy League alone has seen attendance figures drop over 15 percent since 2000.

In an effort to combat the decline, Penn Athletics announced on Monday the first of a series of promotions that will take place over the next two years with the goal of increasing attendance at Franklin Field by 10,000 fans per game.

Starting this season, faculty and staff members will receive free admission to football games. In addition, each faculty and staff member will be able to bring up to four guests to each game.

According to Athletic Director Steve Bilsky, last year over 2,000 faculty and staff members per game bought tickets during the football season.

Bilsky said the ticket policy and other changes were made in the hopes of giving game days a more family oriented feel while also targeting the over 40,000 workers Penn employs as future fans.

In addition to free admission to games, Bilsky said the athletic department planned this season's schedule, specifically kickoff times to make it easier for families to plan to attend games, even if not on a weekly basis. This season, kickoff times forPenn's home games will vary between noon and 3:30 in the afternoon.

Last year, with the exception of Penn's night game against Villanova, all of Penn's home games started at 1:00 p.m.

The location of the complimentary tickets, in the east end zone of the stadium, was also chosen with the idea of creating a more family friendly atmosphere at games in mind.

While the first part of the athletic department's new marketing strategy only targets Penn's employees, Bilsky said he realizes the importance of bringing more students into Franklin Field on gamedays. Although new promotions aimed at students may be unveiled during the upcoming season, Bilsky said the athletic department was still in the early phases of planning an initiative targeting students.

According to Dan Flynn, the director of marketing and promotions for Penn Athletics, some ideas currently being discussed included events such as a back-to-school tailgate party before the first game that would help make gamedays more than just a three hour game. However, Bilsky was frank about the department's lack of concrete plans to increase student attendance, saying, "We don't have the answer yet."

He went on to say that the Athletic Department plans to talk face-to-face with student constituent groups in order to develop a more systematic approach to getting fans into Franklin Field week after week.

However, Bilsky acknowledged that recent attendance by students was disappointing, noting, "We're resistant to the status quo."

According to Bilsky, other future promotions would be aimed at corporations and vendors that currently do business with the University along with other members of the Penn community and West Philadelphia.

When asked about covering seats to lower Franklin Field's official capacity of 52,958 to a more reasonable number, Bilsky said there were no immediate discussions to do so but that it could become an option in the future.

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