18,000. That’s the number of student tickets allotted by the University Athletic Department at each home football game.

10,000. That’s the estimated number of students in attendance at the Arkansas game on Sept. 18.

For the next home game, the Athletic Department has a plan to fill those empty seats.

According to an e-mail obtained by The Red & Black, Athletic Promotion Director Tim Cearley said to boost student attendance at the next home football game versus Tennessee on Oct. 9, the University Athletic Department will sell 1,000 student tickets to students who received split ticket packages and did not receive a Tennessee ticket.

Beginning at 9 a.m. today and ending at noon on Thursday, students in that category can request a ticket for the game. Awarded tickets will be loaded onto students’ ID cards.

Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton said the department was releasing the extra tickets to allow students who did not originally receive a ticket the opportunity to go to the game.

“We have data from fall last year and this year until this point. And the students that all have tickets are not all coming to the games,” he said.

Felton said under this premise, there will be extra tickets available for students.

“If a student has a ticket, and finds out they’re not going to go, they can donate it back to the system,” Felton said. “So you could have some of the donations in there, too, that could make up some of those 1,000 tickets. Based on the data we have, it would be highly, highly unlikely that all of those 18,000 students would come to the same game.”

Athletic Director Greg McGarity said the Athletic Department made it easy for students to attend games, but filling the section is up to students.

“So, you know, we’ve done everything we could do and now we’re paying for it — not financially, but we’re paying for it by the students not living up to their deal,” he said.

McGarity said the Athletic Department is working on a system that would prevent empty student seats for the 2011 season. He said the department is looking at ticketing systems used at Ohio State, Texas, Florida and Alabama to determine how to improve the system.

“The intent is to how can we provide a system that will allow enough students in to where we can manage it and know that Thursday at 5 o’clock that we have ‘x’ amount of seats left that we can either put on sale or reissue to students that didn’t qualify for tickets,” McGarity said. “How can we? That’s our challenge. So, we’re gonna benchmark other institutions to see how they do that.”

Joe Arnone, associate athletic director for ticket operations at the University of Tennessee, said the Tennessee ticket office knows each week before games which sections will be empty.

“We release student section tickets every week, pretty much. It would look bad if those sections are empty,” he said.

McGarity said the empty student section reflects poorly on the University.

“We’re suffering as a program, as an institution,” McGarity said. “When we’re on TV and they show the stadium, there’s 5,000 or 6,000 empty seats — that’s embarrassing.”

—Tiffany Stevens and Zach Dillard contributed to this story.

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