“Nothing can unify a community and alumni base of a university like college football can.”

Too bad schools are losing touch with their students on that front, then.

Average student attendance at college football games is down 7.1% since 2009, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of stadium turnstile records from about 50 public colleges with top-division football teams. The decline was 5.6% at colleges in the five richest conferences.

The decrease even at schools with entrenched football traditions and national championships stands in contrast to college football’s overall popularity.

What’s the problem?  Not enough wi-fi?  Nah, it’s the usual suspect.

The growing number of empty seats in student sections across the U.S. is a sign of soaring ticket prices, more lopsided games and fewer matchups against longtime rivals, and the proliferation of televised games that make it easier than ever for students to keep tailgating long after kickoff.

It’s money that they love.  Schools, I mean.  And students usually don’t have that much, at least in comparison to older alumni and ESPN.  And perhaps that’s why ADs like Joe Alleva don’t sound that upset.

“There are so many other things they can do that maybe going to the game that day isn’t the most important thing on their agenda,” says Louisiana State University athletic director Joe Alleva. Student attendance fell 5.5% to 8,508 in 2013 from 9,000 in 2012.

By the time LSU notices that those students aren’t buying season tickets down the road, Joe will be off enjoying retirement somewhere and it’ll be somebody else’s problem.  Of course, by then college football may be sporting a 24-team playoff, so maybe nobody will notice.

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25 Comments

Filed under College Football

25 responses to ““Nothing can unify a community and alumni base of a university like college football can.”

  1. Bob

    Amen. Amen. Amen.

  2. AusDawg85

    Who needs fans? TV is paying for it anyway.

    Easy prediction: New stadiums and stadium renovations will have fewer seats but more “luxury” at a higher cost per ticket. The new stadium for Baylor is an example, seating 45k expandable to 55k or about half the size of the biggest stadiums in CFB today.

    Crazy prediction: By 2022 UGA will mostly raze Sanford, convert to smaller, “better” venue in the 55k – 70k range with more luxury boxes and Dawgs will play “home” games in new Atlanta stadium for one season during construction.

    • Bulldog Joe

      We will never be Georgia Tech.

    • The other Doug

      The new stadium will be modern and better for TV.

    • UnionJack

      +100. For the most part, College athletics is still the only sports industry division that is renovating or building new stadiums to be larger than current facilities. It is a reaction to recent past history/current markets rather than planning based on the long term forecast.

      Most new professional stadiums are being built as you describe above.

      • SouthGaDawg

        Had the exact conversation at work this morning. With TV picking up every game now, why go, especially if we now have Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday games? It’s a heck of a lot easier watching from home knowing you’ve got to go to work the next morning rather than taking 1-2 days off from work to go to the game. With all the TV $, I honestly don’t think the school presidents and AD really care about the stadium attendance. In our digital society, I don’t see stadium attendance getting any better.

  3. This is a cautionary tale for all athletic programs .They (the AD’s) are continuing to make what are ,in my mind at least,short sighted decisions, They will eventually kill the goose that lays the golden egg but their retirement will have vested by then.
    Understanding that this fact does not prove the WSJ correct BUT,it is as several geeks on this cite would say,another data point that tends to prove the hypothesis…..my son a first year transfer student just got his full compliment of student tickets. This stands in stark contrast to the experience my other friends kids had their first years. In previous years most 1st years had to be satisfied with half a season ticket package. Why does my kid get a full package…obviously because demand is down. Lesson number 3 in economic theory NOTHING IS JUST ONE THING. .While it is great that my son got all the tickets ,I can’t help but think it bodes poorly for the future of UGA football.

  4. Irwin R Fletcher

    Unless someone shows a correlation b/w not going as a student and not supporting the program as an alumni, I’m not sure anyone in these athletic departments are going to care.

    (side note…this is interesting…maybe going to UGA games at age 8 is more important to the long term success of an athletic department than the same person going as a student at age 18…http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/opinion/sunday/they-hook-you-when-youre-young.html…)

    • JCDAWG83

      Excellent point about going to games at 8 as opposed to 18. However, since 48% of the incoming freshman class were born outside of Georgia, that is going to become more the exception than the rule. My daughter recently graduated from Georgia (third generation Georgia grad) and she said the students absolutely hate the early kickoff games against cupcake opponents. ADs need to realize that students, and other fans, are not stupid, they know when a matchup is terrible and are not going to show up. My daughter, nor any of her friends, ever mentioned a word about poor cell phone coverage, concession food quality, or lack of recorded music as a reason they did not go to a game. If they weren’t interested in going to the game, it was because it was a crap game. For big games, students would get tickets by hook or crook, even paying scalpers to get in if they couldn’t get them through the university. There is no problem with student excitement about football, the problem is with the ADs trying to sell a shit sandwich and then making excuses when no one buys it.

      • Scorpio Jones, III

        “If they weren’t interested in going to the game, it was because it was a crap game.” No shit, and it was the same when I was in school 100 years ago.

        Only the season ticket holders who have done spent the wad of money to get their tickets shows up for the crappers.

        Does anybody really blame the students?

        The question is does anybody really care if they show up or not?

        My suspicion is that folks only care if the students show up cause its bad TV if the student section is half-empty.

  5. Russ

    All I know is I’m ready for some football. I actually enjoyed watching that Georgia State game last night. 16 game losing streak broken.

    • Scorpio Jones, III

      The SEC TV piece on Spurrier was better than all but the last minute of the game…God, Georgia State…what is Georgia State doing with a football team…oh, wait…maybe they don’t have one. :)

  6. Athens Dog

    I know I’m beating a dead horse, but the entrance rules enacted by Adams have forced an entire generation of children whose parents went to UGA and grew up pulling for UGA, to go to Auburn, Bama, or South Carolina.

    Many of the “highly recruited” students we have now have not historical reason to go to a game.

    And students are different today……..I can’t imagine how different UGA would have been in the 70’s with smart phones???

    But yes I’m ready.

  7. MountainDawg

    As a student at the University, I have some information that y’all may not know about. The University actually OVERSOLD student tickets this year. This an attempt to keep the student section full, as well as get the students in the gate early enough. Yes, if you are a student and bought season tickets for the home games this year, you could still be turned away at the gates if the stadium is at capacity. See y’all on Saturday, I’ll be the one in red singing along with the blaring rap music.

  8. Bulldog Joe

    In 4 of the past 5 seasons, we were out of the national title hunt by game six.

    If we’re still in it this year, attendance will not be a problem.

  9. DawgPhan

    scheduling alone will not fix the problem. You have to compete with the at home experience and if you can’t make the in stadium experience better than the at home experience then you are going to lose regardless of who you are playing.

    Improving the schedule is just one way that the in-stadium experience can be improved. I think that dumping the bleachers, improved concessions, tailgating, music, wifi, tvs in the concession and bathroom and all those sorts of things would go a long way towards getting people in the stands.

    As it stands now I have to forsake all other college football to attend the UGA games, save the in game video on the scoreboard, which has been a huge improvement for the in stadium experience.

    Letting me buy a cold co-cola in less than 45 minutes would be a great place to start.

    • JCDAWG83

      If the team is worth a damn and is in some sort of championship hunt, the stadium will be full for decent matchups. Pumping music into the stadium will not generate interest in a game against Buffalo or Florida International at noon. The in stadium experience will never be as comfortable as the at home experience, unless you live in a van down by the river. The appeal of the in stadium experience is the atmosphere, the pagentry and the excitement of being at the live event. I would wager that there are not 100 people in the stadium that would not come because they didn’t get good cell phone coverage or the concessions aren’t good enough. I don’t know anyone who goes to a game to be able to buy the concession food and drink or talk on their cell phone. If you want to watch a lot of football games while Georgia is playing, you really need to stay home or go to a bar with several games on.

      I go to games to cheer the Dawgs, be part of the experience, enjoy the fellowship of tailgating, spend some time in Athens, and take in the scenery and relive, to a degree, my college days. Objectively, I could stay home, watch the game, have better food and drinks, get better replays, check on other games and save lots of money. Personally, I’d rather go to the game.

  10. FisheriesDawg

    I don’t see how ticket prices are an issue for students. Those are HIGHLY subsidized at well below the market rate.

    • H. Boots

      They’re students. UGA students. The fact that they have to pay for tickets at all is pretty jacked up.

  11. James

    I used to buy this as a foregone conclusion, but now I’m not so sure.

    Okay so Michigan loses 30% of their season ticket holders 10 years from now. Well Michigan’s real money is coming from TV, and 12 million people watched Ohio State-Michigan last year. A tiny minority of those people were season ticket holders of either school (more than half of them were at the game, first off, and so what, maybe 30k of these lucrative fans are part of the lucrative TV value?).

    So all a school really needs to do is maintain and grow the value of the broadcast. That’s not necessarily correlated with donor super fans, and you have an inherent advantage because live TV is more valuable every single year because non-sports programming gets easier to watch recorded every year.

    In fact of the handful of incredible lucrative fans I know, who have RVs, season tickets, and donate money — not even half of them are actually that into general college football news; they’re into the cultural experience, and in fact can’t watch games because it’s a 10 hour non-TV commitment to go to a game every week.

    I’m not saying I like any of this, by the way, but if it’s all about money, which it is, I’m not sure they’re making a stupid money decision by doubling down on the super rich fan via luxury boxes and then selling out the common fan for increased TV revenue. If the issue is that people are watching the games at home instead of going to games, which seems to be the case, this isn’t even necessarily a long term problem.

    • James

      In fact so many of the power programs are such specifically because they draw in regional sports fans, often not even ones that went to the school. Many of the biggest fans I know of Florida, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame, and Texas never were students there.

    • JCDAWG83

      I view actual attendance as a leading indicator of overall interest. If the live attendance begins to drop, I would imagine the overall interest in a sport or program will drop as well. As the interest drops, the tv revenue will drop with it. Appealing to the super rich through luxury boxes seems like a dangerous path to me. As attendance becomes more elite and the masses begin to view the game as the sport of the rich, the masses will find other things to attend and be interested in.

      The old saying “pride goeth before a fall” is true in most all things. College football is at a high point right now. If the ADs think the fans and public in general will follow it no matter what, the public will surely prove them wrong. One needs only look at NASCAR to see what happens when a sport thinks it’s product is in such demand that it can demand whatever it wants from the fans.

      Nothing will happen quickly. Inertia is a powerful force in the world. However, once things turn, there will be no turning back. Losing the student attendance at college games is the first sign of things turning.