Student veterans struggle for UT football game seating

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Many of UT’s student veterans may skip the annual veteran’s football game next month because of difficulties with seating.

Every year, UT honors veterans by decidating one of its games in November to veterans. But student veteran attendance might not be very high this year. Marc Hamlin, vice president of the Student Veterans Association, said student veterans are frustrated with UT athletics because of student seating issues. This past summer, Hamlin and Stephen Ollar, president of Student Veterans Association, approached the Texas Athletics Department about the possibility of working around Texas Athletics’ current group seating system to get student veterans better seats. UT was not able to help them.

“This is pushing a lot of veterans away from getting to go to the football game,” Hamlin said. “Student veterans do not want to sit next to what is to them an obnoxious 18-year-old. They are just on different maturity levels.”

Veteran students are usually much older than UT’s traditional students, and Hamlin said many veterans are not attending the games right now because of frustrations with seating.

Under Texas Athletics‘ current system, students who want seating with their friends or a student organization can make a group when they purchase their football tickets. UT’s Athletics Department assigns tickets based on a group’s lowest class qualification. A group with all seniors is likely to get seats in the lower deck, and a group with all seniors and one freshman is likely to get seats in the upper deck.

Hamlin said this system is fair for most students but has created a problem for student veterans. If the student veterans register for a group all together, with both seniors and freshmen, then they will be seated with other freshmen, likely in the upper deck.

“We will have a 31-year-old student veteran who is classified as a freshman, so he is sitting with 18-year-olds,” Hamlin said. “That is a problem for him. He does not go to the games.”

Hamlin said he went to UT’s box office first this past summer to see if he could work around UT’s current system. He said he was told that only spirit groups can get special seating.

Then Hamlin said he went to UT’s Athletics Department to try to get the Student Veterans Association classified as a spirit group. There Hamlin tried to contact Mack Brown, Texas football head coach, but Brown’s secretary referred Hamlin to others in the Athletics Department.

“We got a lot of sympathy but not a lot of action,” Hamlin said. “The Dean of Students has been working with us great. But when it gets outside of the Dean of Students, not a lot happens sometimes.”

The email Hamlin sent to Brown’s secretary was bounced around to many people, but no action was ever taken. Hamlin said conversations about the possibility of giving the Student Veterans Association special seating eventually died.

Nick Voinis, senior associate athletic director, said they could not help the student veterans because they approached them too late for this season.

When asked if TexasSports would be able to help the student veterans order tickets differently next year because of their concerns, Voinis said, “That’s the way all other students do it ... next year they can go online just like other students do and order them as a group.”

Currently Hamlin said as few as eight veteran students are sitting together at the football games. Hamlin said they are requesting seating for 30.

Attending football games together is one social activity Hamlin says the Student Veteran Association does to foster a bond between fellow veterans. Because of this, Hamlin said it is important that student veterans can sit together at football games.

“A good student life for a veteran is to be around other veterans,” Hamlin said. “But we can’t get that.”

Printed on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 as: Veterans struggle for game seating