Lehigh students gather on Nov. 20, 2021 outside of Goodman Stadium at the Lehigh-Lafayette Rivalry tailgate. Clubs, alumni and other groups on campus rent tents on Goodman Campus to celebrate the game. (Courtesy of Elen Karagulian)

Organizing The Rivalry home game


In preparation for the 159th Lehigh-Lafayette Rivalry, the Lehigh administration broke down the logistics required for the home game. 

This year’s game will be played at Goodman Stadium, so most of the preparation falls on Lehigh administrators. Although The Rivalry annually takes place the Saturday before Thanksgiving, several months go into perfecting every detail.

Allen Biddinger, the associate athletics director for athletic facilities and events,  meets with his team in June or July each year to discuss notes for improvement from the previous year. 

Come August, Biddinger said the team places work orders and arranges other changes necessary for the entire football season. 

In October, Lehigh and Lafayette join forces for what Biddinger called their “joint logistics meeting.” Held around the mid-point of the month each year, both Lehigh and Lafayette administration and athletic coordinators gather to discuss the logistics and to ensure the transportation, students, police and other organizations are where they need to be. 

Biddinger said there are minute details their team keeps a constant eye on, including traffic flow, bus routes and the placement of porta potties. 

Rich Haas, the assistant athletic director for sales and marketing, said as of Nov. 9, approximately 11,000 tickets have been sold for this year’s rivalry, which means Goodman Stadium is nearing capacity. 

“That number is only climbing,” Haas said. “We expect a pretty strong student attendance at the game, which will be very exciting.”

Due to the larger crowds at The Rivalry, Goodman Stadium staff arrive extra early to ensure adequate preparation for the high volume of attendees. 

“On a regular game day, I’m in the stadium at 6 a.m., but for Lehigh-Lafayette, I’m there between 5:15 and 5:30 a.m.,” Biddinger said. “Our parking attendants normally arrive at 8 a.m. but report at 6:30 a.m. for Lehigh-Lafayette.” 

Biddinger said Sodexo Catering and Concessions manages the majority of the food and beverage provided at the game, including The Fud Truck, the Talon, a barbeque stand, pizza stand and tailgates. 

For the Le-Laf game to successfully function, Haas said funding is crucial. Unlike other home football games, Le-Laf charges students $25.75 per ticket, which is a slightly discounted rate for both Lehigh and Lafayette students. General admission to The Rivalry game is $28.50. 

He said overall ticket sales for football games this year have been down in general, but The Rivalry has always been an exception, with it being such a strong part of Lehigh’s history and tradition. 

“This is the one, the most important one on the schedule,” Haas said. “Records don’t matter as much when it comes to the Lehigh-Lafayette game.”

Lehigh and Lafayette participate in a revenue split from the game. Haas explained Lehigh receives 70% of the tickets to sell when they host The Rivalry, and Lafayette receives a higher percentage of tickets to sell than Lehigh when the game is in Easton. 

Because the game alternates each year, revenue balances over time between the universities’ staff. 

“Each school is motivated and held accountable to sell their tickets,” Haas said. “It’s a combined effort to try and get as large of a crowd as possible no matter where the game is played to maximize revenue.” 

Lehigh will be hosting The Rivalry in 2023 as well as 2024 with Lafayette hosting both 2025 and 2026 games. This is because Lafayette’s bicentennial anniversary is occurring in 2025 and they want to host the game there for that milestone. 

Haas said students are at the forefront of importance in terms of the game. Seats in the lower level, near the end zone, are reserved for students, and Haas said there are additional last-minute, standing-room-only spots held for students even if the game is deemed “sold out.” 

“Our goal is that as many students as possible make it into Goodman Stadium to enjoy the game,” Haas said. “It’s college football’s most-played rivalry, so this is a pretty distinctive opportunity compared to other universities.” 

However, some students don’t attend the game at all, like Maddie Banks, ‘24, and Lucas Bennett, ‘24. 

Banks plans to host a tailgate with her parents and brothers instead of watching the game. She said choosing not to attend the football game gives her the freedom to bounce between different tailgates so she can introduce her friends to her family.

“It’s nice that in the tailgates all of the students congregate all together,” Banks said.

Bennett said his fraternity will be hosting a tailgate and he wants to spend as much time with his friends as possible before graduation. 

Haas said tailgating is a big part of college football, but it’s not as important as the game.

“It’s a great way to be social and meet up with friends and to make new friends,” Haas said. “But it’s not the main event, right? It’s kind of the opening act.”

Bennett said he thinks overall attendance at Lehigh’s football games would be higher if the stadium was within walking distance of campus. He also said if there was more excitement centered around going to the game, he would be more likely to go. 

Christopher Mulvihill, the associate dean of students, said he encourages Lehigh students to go to The Rivalry game at least once, if not all four years. Mulvihill said he stresses attendees to follow behavioral guidelines to ensure the game goes as planned. 

Mulvihill said fans are asked to arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled noon kickoff in anticipation of heavier-than-usual foot traffic. He also said no alcohol is to be brought into the stadium and anyone visibly intoxicated will not be allowed inside the stadium — spectators will be screened and no bags larger than 12 inches by 12 inches by 10 inches will be allowed inside. 

There have not been any major behavioral incidents in recent years and Mulvihill said he hopes for it to remain that way. 

“I just encourage students to go, have a good time and enjoy themselves,” Mulvihill said.

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