Fan Appreciation Day

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Fan Appreciation Day

I was out of town this weekend but I felt like I was here after receiving as many emails I did about Sunday's Fan Appreciation Day.

One said, "They must not appreciate me because they didn't let me in after waiting two hours in line. I didn't feel appreciated."

I can promise you that Clemson does appreciate its fans and I would not take this one isolated incident as the measuring stick for the level of the administration's appreciation. We don't do everything right here at Clemson but I do believe in the Clemson family and I think that holds true in most cases.

From all accounts that I have heard and read I have come to the following conclusions:

*There is not a perfect way to handle Fan Appreciation Day. There is no way to satisfy everyone.

*There was a record crowd that some estimated at 20,000 at the event. I am not sure how that number could ever be accommodated.

*I do know there will be or already has been a series of planning meeting for next year's event because the athletic department does not want to disappoint the number of fans that is did yesterday.

I have no training in this field but I have done some research today and have found some good ideas from other places on what to do with this kind of event. I have also seen several policies on this event that would never work here.

I also understand that demand is different in different markets and professional teams can handle their business differently than college teams.

Perhaps the best idea I have seen is what they do at Alabama. Certainly the demand at Alabama is as high or higher than what we saw yesterday at Clemson but Bama seems to turn a bad situation into a good one.

In Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban does not want his players signing autographs for hours. He wants this to be a quick process. So Alabama opens practice to the public for one two-hour practice. Fans can watch their favorite players and take their pictures from close by in the stands. After practice, fans are allowed on the field to get autographs and pictures from players and coaches who are sitting at tables lined up against the walls. This is allowed for only 45 minutes but personally I think a couple of hours makes more sense.

I like this idea because the fans and more importantly, the children have access to the field. The kids can run on the field and throw the football around while standing in line.

This idea avoids the bottleneck issue we saw yesterday. It also allows fans to prioritize their lists as well.

I could not imagine standing in line for a few hours with a five-year old yesterday with nothing for them to do. Bring on the root canal instead. This idea lets the kids wear themselves out in the process.

I think fans should also remember that Clemson does have several opportunities each year for autographs. Fans are allowed on the field after games which is almost unheard of anymore. They have access during the spring game and the staff hosts a free youth day during spring practice each year. Coaches are available on the IPTAY speaking circuit.

Most fans I talked to understand that players have limited time and don't think they should be required to sign autographs for hours upon hours but this is still hard to explain to a kid.

Speaking of our youth, this is what this day should be about. The athletic department understands that these young people are impressionable and often times we stay loyal to our childhood favorites for life.

I hate the fact that many adults were disappointed yesterday but I really hate hearing that so many kids were heartbroken.

So I guess my main suggestion in the future is to have it in a larger venue where all fans can at least get in the gates and feel like they are a part of the festivities. I think many people would agree that being shutout is not fan friendly. There are other issues that arise when you do this but at least everyone would have a chance to get into the gates.

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