Holiday weekend could bring low student turnout for Missouri State’s first home playoff game in 31 years

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 6:35 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - This weekend (Saturday, Nov. 27) the Missouri State football program will be marking a historic event when the Bears host their first FCS national playoff game in 31 years against Tennessee-Martin. The kickoff is at 3 p.m.

But on Tuesday in the university’s Plaster Student Union only a handful of free tickets available to the students were given away mainly because of one reason.

“It (the game) falls during the Thanksgiving break,” pointed out MSU Student Union Director Terry Weber. “Thanksgiving is the largest barrier we have in our struggles of handing out fewer tickets than we wanted to.”

Hundreds of free tickets were available. An organization known as the Traditions Council was overseeing the dispersal.

“We promote going to athletic events, going to Fountain Day, the Missouri State birthday party, or public affairs events,” explained Kristin Bianco, who oversees the social media for the group. “These are all things that students know of and we’re just there to help them engage in as much as they can.”

But on Tuesday in the student union, there were far more students at the nearby Chick-fil-A than at the Traditions Council’s free ticket give-away table.

“A lot of students have already left town,” Bianco said. “It’s really an important holiday for a lot of people. I know I’m going home this weekend so I can’t really talk much.”

It’s too bad though that fan turnout for the playoff game may be diminished by turkey and family because this will be only the fifth playoff game in the Missouri State football program’s 112-year history. The Bears’ only playoff win came in 1989 when a 33-yard field goal with eight seconds left lifted then Southwest Missouri State over Maine 38-35. The Bruins would go on to lose at Stephen F. Austin 55-25 in the quarterfinals. In 1990 the Bears returned to post-season play in what would be their last home playoff appearance, falling to Idaho 41-35.

It wasn’t until head coach Bobby Petrino’s arrival last season that MSU made it back to the playoffs again, losing at North Dakota 44-10.

And Petrino’s success has certainly brought renewed fan interest to the often-downtrodden football program.

“I personally am more interested in going to the games knowing that we actually have a shot at winning,” said Bri Colabianchi, a member of the Traditions Council.

But there’s still a sizable portion of the student population that comes for the pregame tailgating only to leave once the game starts.

“I definitely think there’s more interest in partying than watching a game,” Colabianchi said about some of the students who take part in game-day activities.

And that’s a tradition that the Traditions Council is trying to change.

“It’s hard,” Bianco said. “We’re constantly trying to brainstorm ways to get more people to come and stay. We offer free food and giveaways that usually bring more students in.”

“It’s just hard to get students to come to any events,” Colabianchi added. “It’s because everyone is still getting used to that COVID world that we’re living in.”

If you would like to go and support the Bears, here’s the information you need to know:

Tickets for Saturday’s playoff game are on sale at the Old Missouri Bank Box Office at JQH Arena or by phone at (417) 836-7678. Tickets are also available 24/7 at Box office hours this week will be Tuesday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The box office will be closed Thursday and Friday but will reopen on game day at the stadium location only, starting at 10 a.m. Playoff ticket prices are $20 for adults and $5 for children (12 and under).

Tailgating: BearFest Village will open two hours prior to kickoff.

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