RUSTON — Attendance is growing at Louisiana Tech football games.

Through three home dates this fall, Tech is averaging 23,497 fans per game. Each of those games — against Central Arkansas, Houston and Hawaii — drew more than 20,000 fans.

Tech’s Saturday homecoming game against San Jose State drew 19,642 to Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston. Baton Rouge native Morgan Broussard was a member of the homecoming court for 2011.

Attendance began to grow in Derek Dooley’s second season in 2008.

That’s when Tech opened the season at home against Mississippi State, the first Southeastern Conference team to visit Ruston.

Despite the visiting team bringing few fans, 25,224 attended, the third-largest gate in stadium history.

“It’s a combination of things but it shows you can’t just go by our record,” Athletic Director Bruce Van De Velde said of the Bulldogs’ 3-4 overall mark. “We’ve tried to create an atmosphere and made it about more than just a football game ... it’s an event. We are seeing increases across the board from adult fans, to students to youngsters.”

Tech has lost three close games, although only the 35-34 loss to Houston was in Ruston. But the Bulldogs were favored over Hawaii before losing 44-26.

“We’re playing an exciting brand of football despite our record and we’re so close to being 4-4 instead of 3-4,” Van De Velde said.

“We’re excited about next year when we have six home games.”

Tech’s 2012 home slate includes Lamar, Rice, Nevada-Las Vegas, Idaho, Utah State and Texas-San Antonio.

“Some people think the economy is a drawback to football attendance, but the opposite has proven to be true for us,” Van De Velde said.

The Bulldogs have received a significant boost from student attendance, which has grown as the university works to build each game into an event.

A live band plays in the park next to the Thomas Assembly Center near the stadium before each home contest and $1,000 is given away to one student in a drawing.