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'CATS DRAWING A CROWD, BUT IS IT ENOUGH?

Weber State football is producing record attendance and revenues so far this season, but bigger crowds and more money may be needed to maintain the program.

Wildcat games are averaging 13,156 fans, the highest in the Ogden school's history. Prior to this year, the best attendance average for a season was about 10,000."I was not expecting this level of support," Weber State president Paul Thompson said. "I expected a significant increase, but the 13,000 is more than I expected. Assuming we get that continuing support, you would have to say this is a very pleasant surprise."

Still, the school's strategic planning committee had determined an average of 14,000 fans per game and total ticket revenues of $350,000 is needed to maintain football at its current Division I-AA level.

With two home games remaining Oct. 22 against Montana and Nov. 5 with Idaho State, Wildcat boosters are still hoping to top the 14,000 goal. The Montana game, which is Weber's homecoming, should do at least as well.

It is total ticket revenue after three games - just $170,024 - that most worries football supporters. At that rate, the school could fall will short of the $350,000 goal.

Part of the problem is that the average game ticket revenues are slightly more than $3, taking into account free student admissions and special family ticket packages.

The committee had determined that the school needed to average $5 per ticket in revenues to make its primary goal.

A secondary set of criteria, which would keep football while slashing scholarships and funding, calls for ticket revenues of $220,000 for the season and average attendance of 10,000 per game.

Athletic Director Tom Stewart said that in order to boost revenue figures, money donated to help save the program will be used to buy tickets for the final two home games.

Those tickets will then be donated to corporations sponsoring Wildcat football, or to youth groups in the area.

"We need to get the criteria back in front of the public," Stewart said. "We need to emphasize we have two games left and can't let down. We're in a race and we need to get to the finish line."

The final decision on the future of Weber football belongs to the university's Board of Trustees.

"As the chairman of the trustees, I'd have to say the crowds have been wonderful. And if this continues the future of WSU football is positive," said trustees chairman Fred Ball. "This is a very positive sign and it's my opinion that, if it continues, we will see football again next season."

The decision could come in mid-November. The regular season ends Nov. 12, when the Wildcats play at Idaho.

"Shortly after that, we'll need to be making a decision," Thompson said.

The undefeated Wildcats face Eastern Washington on the road today in a conference game.