I posted this to the news comment, but I may as well repost it here:
If you look at Sam's presentation from Thursday, you'll see that the number of teams competing (there were 46 this year), though well below the early 1990s heyday, has been pretty consistent for the last 20 years. We're well above where we were in the early 80s and before. So I'm not too worried about the existing of buggy in 5 years. I do, however, agree that we need to increase participation. But I'm not sure that increased awareness is the key. From talking to AEPi brothers (as both an alum, and because I find them to really be a barometer, since I have never been convinced that their continued participation every year is a given), the two main barriers are money and willingness to wake up at 5am on weekends. The main barrier being the latter. Unfortunately, there isn't much that we can do about that one. Having more weekends to roll throughout the year may help, because it means that an org that can't get people out every day (or every weekend) can take certain days off here and there if need be. Of course, they would still need to do their chores if there are rolls, so I'm not sure how much that actually helps. Is it somehow possible to get permits for later in the day every once in a while? I assume not. But I would argue that the hour is the greatest barrier (money, as I mentioned, is another barrier, but I think the BAA has offered assistance in that area in the past, or at least discussed it, so I'm not sure if it's worth discussing again).
Regarding race times, SDC's win this year in men's is the slowest winning race time since 1980. All the posts I've seen above have complained about how bad this is. I feel the exact opposite way. In fact, I think a slower winning time this year is EXACTLY what buggy needs. Why?
1) The fastest orgs (let's say SDC, circa 2008-2014, and PiKA, circa 2008-2009) are on a mission to set the course record. They believe that they have the technology and the pushers to do it. So what does the slower winning time mean for them? Nothing - They'll continue to fight for that course record, which is independent of the winning time.
2) The top orgs (SDC, PiKA, SigEp, CIA, Fringe, and Spirit if they can improve their freerolls) are fighting for the 1st place trophy. When the winning team is a second off the course record, it makes it extremely unlikely that they'd get to take home that first place trophy (no offense to CIA, who did exceptionally well this year and has clearly found a wheel compound that may be the future of buggy, but I just can't see them putting up a 2:04). When the winner regresses to a 2:12, suddenly raceday isn't a "let's crown SDC and have everyone battle for 2nd" day, but rather it's a "we have a real chance to win" day. Which means more training, more desire, more excitement, and most importantly, more interest.
3) The second division orgs (we'll say Apex, SAE, and SigNu) see slower times and can say "We actually have a chance at making second raceday!" On top of that, it means that one or two DQs or DNFs, and they're in trophy territory. SAE's 2:24 this year wouldn't have made most second racedays. I know, because in 2009 we rolled a 2:21.49 and finished 11th. The excitement at the house had we made second raceday that year would have been enormous. Once again, the chance at making second raceday and possibly earning a trophy increases excitement and interest.
4) The newer orgs (PhiDelt, any other org that wants to start up, and I'm including AEPi here since the state of the buggy program is essentially that of a new program) are probably the most helped by this. The reason for that is because, as I said before, one of the biggest barriers to entry is getting up at 5am every weekend. It's INCREDIBLY tough to convince someone to do that when they're not fighting for anything. Most of the alumni on this board may not realize this, because they were either in orgs that are good now, were good when they were involved, or at least have a history of making a second raceday. But as someone who ran an organization that had no shot at second raceday, and trying to get that organization to wake up, and be willing to spend money to build a buggy, it was hell trying to convince them to do it, mainly because the brothers would say "what's the point?" My response was always "well, we want to have fun" (I would also say that for us, it was a recruitment tool, but really that was a lie). The rebuttal is that if you're not a buggy person, waking up at 5am is NOT fun. Spending money to build something that 1/5 of the people in the organization will enjoy just doesn't seem worth it. But if, instead, you can tell those people "the reason we're doing this is that we can be competitive and actually have a chance at making second raceday", suddenly everyone is more interested. People like winning. People like having a chance. When you need to put up a sub-2:15 time to make second raceday and you're a newer org, you're basically starting your buggy program because you think that some time, in the future, you will have the interest and the ability to be competitive. When suddenly all you need to do is put up a 2:25, you can be competitive now. Even if you don't end up winning, making second raceday in and of itself is an accomplishment for a newer team. It gets people excited. It opens up other possibilities, like winning design comp. It works as a recruiting tool ("Last year, we made second raceday...With you pushing, we can move into trophy position!"). And most importantly, it INCREASES INTEREST. Especially from organizations that don't have a buggy program. So this may actually be the key point. The lifeblood of buggy may be the C and D teams from the independents. But the key to making buggy more competitive and fun for everyone is to get more orgs (particularly fraternities and sororities) involved. And if you can show them that they have a chance at making second raceday in Year 1, suddenly they're a lot more interested.
As far as increasing awareness, I'm all for that. I'm not sure that awareness is actually an issue (on Sunday, Friday rolls had been viewed on cmUTV's website about 7500 times, and Saturday rolls had been viewed about 5000 times - Yes, many of these were probably alumni), but there's certainly no harm in increasing awareness. One positive thing to note beginning next year, though, is that midway is moving to the CFA Parking Lot. So now booth will be right next to buggy. And since booth is clearly visible and a draw to people, it may very well attract people to buggy as well (especially if they do the smart thing and open Midway at 9am on Friday and Saturday to coincide with raceday, rather than the current time, which I think is either 10 or 11am). I love the idea of including video of recent rolls the week of carnival and live video of raceday in places like the UC for people just walking past (when I was a freshman, cmuTV would replay the previous year's 2nd raceday for roughly the first couple of weeks of classes...I can't tell you how many times I watched the 2004 raceday during orientation week...and I had no idea what buggy was at the time). I'm less sold on making changes to truck weekend for awareness purposes, as I wouldn't expect any non-buggy person to come out for truck weekend, no matter what you do with it.
Anyway, that's my long-winded take on the state of buggy. My personal recommendation would be to have recent alums from some of the teams that have only recently become competitive (CIA, Apex and SigEp) reach out to some fraternities/sororities/other orgs that don't have buggy teams, explain that if they wanted to start a buggy program, those specific alums and the BAA would be willing to help them get it off the ground, and that this year a 2:24 was good enough to make second raceday, which is a time that a team could actually put up in their first or second year (for reference, KKG-ZBT put up a 2:24.75 in its only year, 2010, Deltaforce put up a 2:28 in its only year, 2012, and hell, even AEPi has put up a 2:21 before), so you could have a chance to make the finals early on, while still learning ways to improve your team to eventually take home the 1st place trophy. And if you're an org that doesn't care about winning, it's a ton of fun, you meet a lot of great people, get some real world experience (if you're planning on being an engineer), and can use being a part of buggy as a recruiting tool for your organization.