“Winter is coming.”

Jim Delany is a camel farmer who is sitting on a billion gallons of oil. He knows about camels.That is all.

Brian Cook, from a Q & A with Spencer Hall, November 19, 2012

If you clicked on one of the links in this morning’s buffet, it took you to a piece about the continuing decline in college football attendance.  In it, Greg Byrne, Arizona’s athletic director, utters the usual mouth noises we’re accustomed to hearing from the suits about how they’re on the mother (“We are definitely paying attention,” Byrne said. “It is critical that the game-day experience is better for our fans than the television presentation.”).

But here’s my question: what if, in the end, that attention is all there is?

I mean, we already know these guys aren’t nearly as smart as they believe themselves to be.  As I once wrote,

All these guys, the Delanys, the Slives – they’ve all been told for so many years that they’re marketing geniuses that they’ve swallowed the hype completely.  They’re not.  They’re simply people who’ve been sitting in the right place and have taken the obvious steps (so far, anyway) to monetize our passions.  Now we’re at a stage where the limits are being tested with unsettling notions like fourteen-school conference alignments, scheduling contortions and schools that seemingly change conference affiliations on a monthly basis (hey there, TCU!).  Even most conference names are a joke now.  If they’re not careful, at some point they risk their meal ticket saying the hell with it and walking away.

Smarter marketers than our current conference heads have made dumb moves.

If these guys can’t figure a way out of the box they’ve willingly placed themselves in, what’s left for the game of college football?

And we all know what the box looks like.

As they say in Westeros, “winter is coming.” And “winter,” in the case of the fannies-in-the-stadium-seats experience, most urgently amounts to (a) the continuing and spectacular advances in television, and (b) organized sports’ unwavering allegiance to the networks and to the massive windfall produced by that loyalty.

As TVs become even more overwhelming in quality and as those marvelous production values evolve — as HD becomes 3D becomes holograms, as overhead cameras become in-locker-room-at-halftime ones become in-helmet-during-huddles ones … and all cheaper and cheaper and cheaper — what will be the allure of schlepping to the actual site of the games?

Why will people in the next generation or two and beyond, certain to become virtual-reality participants as they lounge on their sofas, bother with the expense and the irritants and the time commitment of attending events in person?

Why will they continue to pay for the privilege of sitting in traffic jams and then in distant and cramped seats (and so often in the company of fools)?

Why will they keep digging so very deep for tickets, for parking spaces and for mediocre food (and in the matter of those spectacularly overpriced hot dogs, after waiting in line for them)?

And there is this, too: Folks will soon become even more painfully aware that those who run sports, collegiately and professionally, care more about the fans who didn’t come to the game and who didn’t fork over the dollars than the ones who did both.

Bingo.

The economics of college football don’t favor attendance anymore.  So what happens when the schools and conferences surrender to the consequences of the reality they’ve helped fashion?  Well, they’ll just keep doing what they’ve done for the past decade – conference realignment, tossing aside traditional rivalry games as quaint relics of another era, structuring conference championships with an eye towards placing schools in the college football playoffs, commissioners running conferences with an eye towards building broadcast networks… and, of course, postseason expansion – because for them, it’s all worked out in the short-term.  And the short-term is all their minds are capable of grasping.

At the moment, postseason expansion means bowl games, which, when you think about it, are the perfect example of this mindset.  New ones are popping up like desert flowers after a brief rainstorm not because fans want to go to some out-of-the-way place in mid-December, but because it gives ESPN the opportunity to fill another four hours in its broadcast schedule.

At some point, though, the camel herders will be told that slapping a playoff label on a postseason game will get them a bigger check.  And that will be that, because when it comes down to it, that’s the only way they know to run their business.  That’s sort of what Nick Saban was getting at with his comments from the other week, which Jeff Long amusingly dismissed.

But here’s the thing to ponder.  Once the Delanys and the Slives give in to the dark side, where do things go from there?  Sure, it’s easy to see a bunch of bowl games being wiped out, but, while they’re at it, what about conference championship games?  Once the field is large enough, they become useless (although it would have the unintended benefit of ending the embarrassing quivers we’ve been watching the conferences endure over how they want to pick their champs going forward).  Even better, ditch those games and you’ve opened up another week for the playoffs.

For that matter, why stop there?

The sport’s new end-of-the-year playoff format currently has a 12-year lifespan, but in the event that more teams are added and more games are played during the college football season, some SEC coaches think the regular-season structure should be looked at and even shortened.

“I would hope that if it expands beyond this, we gotta look at the regular season,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said as SEC media days concluded Thursday. “I think you have to reduce the regular [season]. A lot of people may not agree with that.”

Eh, Mark, they’ll get used to it while they’re filling out their brackets.

I’d like to think I’m hopelessly cynical and way off base with this.  But then I reflect on everything that’s happened in the name of college football over the past decade and wonder if I’m thinking too small.  Because people like Greg Byrne think they’ve got it all under control.

Advertisements

73 Comments

Filed under College Football

73 responses to ““Winter is coming.”

  1. reipar

    If they have not done away with the conference championship game in basketball I do not see them doing away with it in football. As far as shortening the season by a game that sounds like a great idea right now and will be a necessity if the playoffs ever get to 16 or more teams.

    Like

  2. Russ

    Very bleak prognosis, Senator. Unfortunately I agree with you.

    Like

  3. Cousin Eddie

    Before they have a shorter season, less money in the bank, I see a participation rule. No redshirts, five years of eligibility and possibly more scholarship players (but that will add more cost but probably less than more play off games will add) and limit players to 12 or 13 games. So each starter will need to sit out 1 or 2 games to limit the amount of contact and etc.

    Like

    • They’ll be sold on playoff revenue more than making up for lost regular season bucks.

      Like

      • Cousin Eddie

        I just see the schools that don’t get to the playoffs complaining about their share of the revenue in lost games too much to shorten the regular season as mentioned above. If the second and third tier teams loose revenue that is one thing but once the big boys start to loose out that is something else.

        But yes I see the P5 conferences wanting to chase the BIGGER bucks from an expanded playoff they will have to do a better job of revenue sharing to grease all the pockets.

        Like

  4. ASEF

    If you’re a college administration that doesn’t like dealing with 100,000 people showing up to tail gate, then is this really a problem?

    Yes, earning more money while having to spend less on home games is exactly the sort of win-win college sports administrators are looking for. In 10 years, stadiums will be filled with a bunch of retired people feted before and after the game in return for signing their estate over to deal ol’ State U. Hell, we’re already there.

    Like

    • ASEF

      Smaller stadiums with less seats, more elevators, and club-level staffing.

      Like

      • Hey, it works for the NFL.

        Like

        • ASEF

          And combined with the frenzied fund-raising that colleges direct at the 70 and over crowd, it gives additional heft to your “Winter is coming” theme.

          Like

          • It seems to me like the 70 and over crowd will increasingly be replaced by a larger number of disillusioned fans. The powers that be see fans and playoff money as 2 independent perpetuities. They can’t serve 2 masters though–choosing one alienates the other. Let’s just break it up. To me it is basically a choice between on campus amateur student games and a professional NFL farm system. I don’t like the NFL. I would still go to games at Sanford Stadium if all the 4 and 5 star kids were all getting paid and playing somewhere else. I’ll still cheer for the 3 star kid that wants to wear the silver britches. I would still watch college football if 80% of the current coverage shifted to a NFL Dev league. Wait–hell, I might like college football even more!

            Like

            • Bulldog Joe

              Keep blasting that awful “music” and they will run the 70 and over crowd off too.

              At least the ones who still have their hearing.

              Like

        • We do not want what works for NFL. Too many fans and viewers. Alas, is nothing sacred? Not even CF? Take me LORD before I see my passion for CF’S demise.🎈👣

          Like

      • Whatever it takes to improve the stadium experience!

        Like

  5. Winter hits when that 100,000+ seat on-campus stadium becomes a big white elephant as the lower bowl is the only one filled and the schools can’t pay the bonds issued for construction/expansion.

    It also hits when those loyal alumni who have had season tickets for years disconnect from their universities and stop giving to both the athletic program and the universities’ general scholarship funds. This will get the attention of university president really quickly.

    These are the unintended consequences those in control of college sports appear to have no idea is getting ready to hit them if they don’t start treating their paying customers like patrons instead of wallets.

    Like

    • RocketDawg

      We did this years ago. The game day experience is more of a pain in the ass than an enjoyable time. It all started going down hill when we were run out of our tailgating spot and ended up scattering around campus. I enjoy my basement, multiple televisions, no line for the bathroom, and free beer/drinks from the bar. Plus I get to watch everyone else play too.

      Like

      • I get it. I also get that until UGA makes it practically impossible to enjoy the game day experience and all 3 of my kids have finished school at UGA, I won’t give up my tickets. I still love going to Sanford although the tech game this year almost pushed me over the edge with how the crowd was handled.

        I love college football, but I’m not a fan that will spend 8-10 hours every Saturday in my house watching games that I have limited interest in (and that includes SEC games). I’ll spend more time at the golf course or with the family rather than watching Dave Neal and Andre Ware blather about Missouri vs. Vandy or Uncle Verne & Gary run their mouths for 3 1/2 hours about Alabama vs. LSU. I have pretty much no interest whatsoever sitting and watching a game from beginning to end that doesn’t have an SEC team involved.

        Like

      • I ,being a Dire Straits fan,understand money for nothin and chicks for free but please explain free beer ,,,are you rushing a frat?

        Like

  6. This might sting a little one day.

    Like

  7. AusDawg85

    And there is this, too: Folks will soon become even more painfully aware that those who run sports, collegiately and professionally, care more about the fans who didn’t come to the game and who didn’t fork over the dollars than the ones who did both.

    Just like standing in line to pay while the cashier answers the phone and takes an order from the caller. Eventually I quit being the chump and shop online.

    And while I want to preserve (hell…resurrect!) the tailgating experience, the reality is that as I get older, it’s less important and I don’t see the younger crowd caring. Sighhhh…get off my lawn.

    Like

  8. Scorpio Jones, III

    “Why will they continue to pay for the privilege of sitting in traffic jams and then in distant and cramped seats (and so often in the company of fools)?”

    I never understood the attraction of tailgating, but I suffered through what? 50 years of it because it was part of the free ticket package my dad offered.

    You fight through traffic with an increasingly psychotic driver at the wheel, you rush to get all set up, all the totems and correct beverages and the right sandwiches, you stand around and yuck it up, meantime I have left for the game…which is the only attraction I am interested in.

    Tailgating is a vestige of a slower past, like manicured lawns and golf at the country club.

    If the GAME is all that matters, and with me, it is ALL that matters, I am better served by sitting in Section HD. I do hope the boorish bastard I sat behind for 35 years has moved on to his reward and whoever got my seats is having more fun than I did.

    I don’t have to go to church to commune with God, either.

    Like

    • To each his own, of course.

      I can watch the NFL for free from the comfort of my own armchair. Doesn’t mean I’m going to.

      Like

      • Scorpio Jones, III

        “To each his own, of course.”

        Well, of course. I don’t want to get too far into the weeds, here, but the simple truth is that I feel more connected with the team on the field when I have no distractions.

        As I contemplated my life in football one night with a couple of my buddies, I realized the games I enjoyed most were the games when I was huddled with the radio,( with a couple or three notable exceptions) just me and Munson, fighting and scratching and praying.

        If you like the social aspects of football, that’s great. I don’t.

        Like

        • Scorp game day. Fireplace stoked and ready to watch the Dawgs! 😉

          “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

          Like

        • I understand where you’re coming from.

          But what you call the social aspects are a large part of what CFB’s popularity was built on. Change that, and you change CFB, too.

          Like

          • Scorpio Jones, III

            The cows are beginning to come home, so let me just say that if you enjoy the social aspects, the way yo daddy did, then have at it.

            If I could choose the folks who sat around me, I would be more interested in sitting in the stadium, but that is a complicated deal to do (moving to the club level in an attempt to do just that made it obvious there are the same type of “fans” at every level.

            If I wanted, had, the money for a sky box of my very own, now that would be ok, but I would still have to walk to the car listening to some of the same idiotic comments about the progress of the game.

            Obviously my good Senator, you are more social at football games than I care to be.

            Like

            • Scorpio Jones, III

              Actually, than I can be.

              Like

              • Chi-town Dawg

                My favorite club level story…it’s the LSU game a few years ago when AJ was called for his phantom penalty. It’s third down and we’re knocking on the goal line for the go ahead TD, I’m standing up cheering and yelling my lungs out for the Dawgs to score when all of a sudden I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turnaround and some guy sitting 2-3 rows behind me in the club level is asking me to sit down so he can see the game. I’m like WTF buddy, the game is on the line, we all need to be up and cheering! Luckily I was moved away from him the next year, but it made me realize the only good thing about club level seats is the short lines for the bathroom and concession stand. Otherwise, nothing beats the student section from my days of old.

                Like

              • No you can not! I have the perfect set up. No one allowed and only one person. Miss you Jules Sands Martin. May you rest in peace. I am accepting applications for a replacement. He was a Student of CF. and could anticipate the next play. 🏈🎈. Now I am weeping.

                Like

      • Senator, for me, you just hit the nail on the head. They may push us all to Section HD, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be there every week. I’ll also say tailgating is a pain in the @$$ now unless you have a parking permit. I would much rather go downtown to a restaurant now than to park in a parking deck, carry the supplies to a spot, set up, and then break it back down to get to the game on time.

        Like

        • Scorpio Jones, III

          Even with a parking permit, I found tailgating to be a colossal pain in the ass, but then I was not PAYING for the parking permit, so all I could do was leave early for the stadium. Ultimately tailgating seemed, to me, to be an awful lot of stress and work for very little reward…sigh, sometimes the games were the same. 🙂

          Like

          • I cannot tailgate anymore. Last time was 2006. I love to spend that day alone.🎈

            Like

          • Park downtown, get a calzone and a couple of beers at DePalma’s, walk around downtown, go to the bookstore and the Dawg Walk, and get to the seats in time. That’s pretty much my routine for game days now.

            I do think a great alternative to get people to the cupcake games would be to suspend the parking and tailgating rules for one game per year (Think Southern U) and let people experience the real Georgia tailgating experience like it was before Il Duce showed up. Alas, that would reduce the value of people’s parking permits.

            Like

        • Chi-town Dawg

          I hear you EE about parking being such a pain in the ass. The last time I tailgated was the Alabama blackout game. My rental car/SUV with all our gear was towed away from the spot where we’d parked for 5-6 years without any issues. We packed up our stuff for a quick walk around town before heading to the game and returned to find yellow tape (that wasn’t there when we left) and no cars. I was informed by the biggest cop I’ve ever seen that I would need to call the towing company. After that, my game festivities are at Georgia Gameday. However, as much as I love college football, I find myself being less and less interested each year. Instead of attending 5-6 games, I now only make it to 2 or 3 and seldom use any tickets to see us play the 2-3 cream puffs on the schedule each year. If my daughter selects a school other than UGA for college, it maybe time to sell the condo and give up the tickets because I’m really getting spoiled watching the game in HDTV.

          Like

          • Chi, I get where you are coming from. I give my tickets away to the games I can’t/don’t attend. I make my friends happy to take their kids to a game or two, but it’s harder to rationalize the cost every year.

            Like

      • I do not watch professional sports. Except NBA and Hockey this time of year only. Of course the PGA, Horseracing, and Tennis. 🎈And our Georgia Girls did well, Damn Vandy… Shake it off girls. We will take the SEC title next year.🎈

        Like

  9. Cojones

    Let’s think outside the box presented. Several years ago a game between Montana teams, I think, showed people crowded to the hilt in the stands and standing up cheering like hell for their teams in a driving snowstorm. They all seemed drunk with joy, not booze (although I’m sure quite a few were on some of that as well), and they were the epitome of what I think makes the “asses in the seat” a fan problem that’s shared with the media and the collegiate moguls. If you just want to have a celebration just because it’s Sat and your team is playing, I can tell you the ageing-fan-with-a-medical-problem story who misses the wild-eyed exuberance one can only get in the stands. It isn’t a Make-it-Enjoyable-for-the-Fan problem, it’s a Make-it-for-the-Student problem.

    Instill that people celebratory germ into your present Student Body with their Team and it goes a long way to getting future “asses in the seat” who will love to be in a driving snowstorm or rainstorm just to celebrate LIFE with a college football game. I would trade a hundred college games on my TV set for the physical ability to attend an all-day celebration with thousands of like-minded people. And I wouldn’t need a cookie. Everyone should be fan enough to go while they physically can and say “Screw it” to the big boards, to the elitists who prefer box seat comfort viewing that imitates home viewing and who take themselves away from all the other memory-making activities and people and who should go for the sake of their Alma Mater, a place that provided them their greatest adventures of the mind. Yes, I’m aware that they deserve attention for the greatest amount of manna contributions, but just give them an honored seat in the middle of the Student Section because it’s the Student’s Team.

    Maybe there should be an Ambulatory Section open only to those who can hobble slowly or be carried to their seats by attendants and who haven’t lost one twinkle of celebration in their minds while their bodies can no longer comply with their celebration muscles; maybe experience a lull in the crowd noise followed by an octogenarian voice in that section screaming “Kick their ass!” to the top of his/her lungs and followed by pandemonium in the Student Section. Maybe it’s a fan/alum fan problem of the mind that should receive better than a circus surrounding of electronics to make the Game-Day experience what it used to be – a celebration of precious life with like-minded people.

    Anyway, that’s the way one old fart sees how the game of money perception could be minimized. Of course one has to allow for heart-stopping plays – literally, that crop up during the game, but what the hell, the Student Section could noise-assist them on to Valhalla with the antics of college football game life crashing about them. That wouldn’t be a bad way to go at all.

    Go Dawgs!

    Like

  10. Cosmic Dawg

    So this surely falls into AusDawg’s get off my lawn category, and we’ve flogged this horse here plenty, but I would endure whatever parking, people control, lousy bathrooms, etc issues if they would simply stop assaulting and DISTRACTING me with the stupid jumbotron and the music and the PA advertisements. That, plus trying to talk with whoever you’re with, it’s just too damned much.

    I can understand when I’m listening to the radio for free or download a free app and there’s advertising there. That’s part of the deal. But I can’t stand it when I’ve PAID for something like phone service and I’m getting marketing text messages. Same with a football ticket.

    We live on the south side of Atlanta – I keep thinking, with the Braves moving north, I’d love to see somebody bring a minor league team into north Fayette or Coweta with the promise of “old school ballpark experience” and NO jumbotrons. Would probably go out of business in a week.

    Like

    • Mayor

      The Braves have a Class A (I think) team in Rome. The ballpark is beautiful. Maybe the Braves or some other MLB team would do what you suggested south of Atlanta, CD.

      Like

  11. Bulldog Joe

    If this is the way they want it to go, then build the IPF where Sanford Stadium is now.

    Given how close it is to the J-School, it has the potential to be a very cost-effective TV studio.

    Like

  12. Connor

    I’ve long preferred watching the games on TV to the hassle (as I see it) of getting into the stadium, but I’ve not seen that attitude shared by everyone. Most of my contemporaries still think ‘going to the game’ is a big deal. I’m sure there’s some point at which they won’t, and it’s naive to think people will blithely endure the complete erosion of the live game experience forever, but most fans seem to have a higher tolerance than I do so I’ve stopped predicting the imminent death of the stadium crowd. Maybe in 20 years, but really, who knows that far out?

    Like

  13. AusDawg85

    Dear AD’s,

    You need me as a fan. You need the $$$. And the team needs me to cheer. Take my money, but let me do my job as 12th man. Give me a seat on a bench meant to seat 10 as one of the 10, not one of 12 the way you’ve numbered them. Give me space to park and tailgate so as to allow me to avoid traffic early and late. Provide restrooms and trash collection. Allow me to purchase concessions quick, easily, and affordably. Same for the restrooms and make them clean. Let me cheer and discuss the game with my fellow fans without audio and visual assault. Give me a big screen to enjoy the same insights those who stay home have. Scatter some cheap TV’s around the interior of the stadium while you’re at it…you want me cheering even when I’m spending money don’t you? Let me see the cheerleaders and our band, not racing french fries. Remove clutter from the concourses so foot traffic can flow. Bring more services (programs, food, drink) to my seat.

    Do these things and I’ll give you my money. Fail to heed this advice, watch my money go away.

    Sincerely,

    Your Fans

    Like

  14. 81Dog

    Some of the marketing geniuses (sic) who have been running the game day experience into the dirt for the last 30 years should have taken Econ 101 from Professor DeLorme like I did a long time ago. He would have acquainted them with the logical fallacy “post hoc, ergo propter hoc,” or “because this follows that, this caused that.” Maybe they would understand that they weren’t the cause of the increased popularity of college football, they were just there when it happened.

    If they really wanted to “listen to the fans” about what makes the game day experience great, they wouldn’t be listening to consultants who want to sell them ribbon board ad packages and piped in fake juice. They’d take a look at how Augusta National runs the Masters. Of course, that might imply that the kumbaya approach of modern collegiate administration hasn’t cornered the market on wisdom, or perhaps even worse, a bunch of old white capitalists actually understand something better than anyone. Talk about your microagressions…….

    Like

  15. 69Dawg

    Lets face it, if the TV money continues to increase at the rate it has been, the costs of tickets and indeed the number of asses in the seats won’t really mean as much as a percentage of the total pie. Will the ESPN’s really care if the seats are half empty? The way TV special effects are going they can put life like people in the seats and make them yell as needed. They are already using camera angles designed to not show the up levels of stadiums when they are empty. When the cost benefit of having a live audience is gone then we will get canned audiences.

    Like

    • Mayor

      Since 81 bought up the Masters above let me point out the problem that the Champions Tour is having. Look closely and you will see those senior tournaments are played in front of DOZENS of fans, not thousands. The TV people try their best to make it appear that there is a large crowd there but they really can’t hide the open space. CFB is headed in that direction if those in charge don’t watch out. When TV becomes the only source of revenue for the sport–look out. The WWL really will have the colleges over a barrel then.

      Like

      • Dog in Fla

        “The WWL really will have the colleges over a barrel then.”

        In the meantime, camel traders not worried that Winter is coming

        Like

        • Cojones

          These two guys in the forefront were riding that camel when the camel stopped at a traffic light. They heard someone say,”Look at the two assholes on that camel.”. When they got off to look, the light changed and the camel ran back to it’s owner. They all are having a good laugh about a very old joke and especially the camel who always enjoys it..

          Like

      • Mayor, great point about the Champions Tour. It was a great idea to bring the older guys out for a few events to celebrate their accomplishments (it was pretty much an exhibition rather than competitive). When the tour decided to put together a full schedule of tournaments, with some exceptions, they are at 2nd tier venues with guys playing whom no one remembered when they played professionally (Bruce Fleisher, anyone?). It’s now TV material for Golf Channel and pretty much unwatchable now.

        Like

  16. Monday Night Froetteur

    I think the big “winter” is fans of bottom-tier programs not attending en masse when they realize their administrators are not trying 110% to win, e.g. at places like Wake Forest, Iowa State, Syracuse, Vandy, et al.

    Like

  17. JCDAWG83

    If people, as a whole, aren’t interested in going, they’re generally not that interested in watching. This is not only true in football but in pretty much everything. Boxing, horse racing, pro bowling, etc all used to be followed by huge numbers of people. Now, they are events of passing interest.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t see the idea of no one in the stadium and a huge tv audience as a viable model for the future. If the day comes where college stadiums are half full, the demand for tv broadcasts will be half what it is today. If the demand for tv is half what it is today, the demand for ad time will be half and the revenue will be half.

    Golf is an excellent example. The number of rounds played has dropped continuously for the past 20 or so years and the tv ratings of golf tournaments have fallen with the drop in interest in the game. Many golf courses have closed and the ones that are still around struggle to stay in the black. When people lose interest in actually attending something, the effect is more than simply lower attendance.

    Like

    • Cosmic Dawg

      That’s a really interesting idea and it follows that a lot of loyalty is created in the stadium and carries over to tv interest. One difference you may not be factoring in is that lots of people did experience UGA as a school and so may have a different set of loyalties than golf fans, regardless of how few games they went to…

      Like

  18. Castleberry

    Reek has nothing on Chauncey Gardner

    Like