One thing I found interesting about this CFN chart is that every SEC team that fired its head coach after the 2017 season saw a significant drop in year-over-year home attendance.
- 80. Florida: minus-1131
- 99. Texas A&M: minus-3115
- 114. Tennessee: minus-5189
- 122. Arkansas: minus-6357
Given the surrounding circumstances, Matt Luke (minus-6279) is probably okay for a couple more years, but I’d say Ed Orgeron (minus-2725) better keep an eye on asses in the seats this year.
Now, if you’re an athletic director, it’s a safe assumption to make that an unattractive product on the field means less fans in the stands. In the short run, a coaching change can’t hurt in that regard (other than the buyout you had to pay) and if you catch lightning in a bottle, so much the better.
It’s also a dodge at concerning yourself with the underlying factors that may also be contributing, though. That’s an uncomfortable thing to consider, because it likely means looking at one key revenue source as causing a problem with another key revenue source.
But the overall drop that should concern everyone last year — and this one isn’t calculated in the NCAA figures — is the falling student attendance. It happened at Texas, and I assume that will change when Tom Herman’s team plays closer to its recruiting rank, but the Longhorns are not alone here. Stories about difficulty in getting students to attend games at previous levels can be found at many large schools, state and private, across the land.
And that’s the one that scares everyone because, frankly, millennials and their behavior scare the hell out of the rest of us. There are essentially four reasons for this, depending upon one’s viewpoint.
They don’t respect the things we honor. They want to change everything we view as traditional or necessary. They want to take our jobs. They’re cutting the darned cords on their cable.
It’s that fourth one that gets the most attention (especially if, full disclosure, one has a connection to ESPN), but I think this attendance discussion touches upon everything but the jobs component of the above.
How can it be hard to get college kids to go to college football games?
I understand some of the reasons that others have listed in the comments section of one of these NCAA attendance stories.
Tickets are too expensive.
The games take four hours and, given the burden of working one’s way into and out of parking lots, it’s an all-day commitment.
Since everything is done for TV, kickoff times aren’t even set two weeks before the game.
And then there’s the biggest which is the toughest to address.
It’s just easier to watch on your big screens at home.
We have seen a dramatic and important reversal on this front. A half-century ago television, a relative newcomer on the scene, did its best to recreate the game experience of actually being in the stadium. Today it’s incumbent upon teams in every sport to try to recreate the home viewing experience for those actually in the arena.
It’s remarkable how much effort (and how many millions of dollars) get spent in new buildings on things unrelated to actually seeing the game from your seat. It still stuns me to walk around, say, Globe Life Park and see the number of people busy doing something other than watching the game they have chosen to attend.
The college football experience as I mentioned can be a four-hour ordeal. Longer if Big 12 defenses are involved. The number of kids content to put their phones away, grab a seat and watch each team take 95 snaps from center is minuscule.
I don’t think college football is in danger of losing its entire audience in the near future, or even a sizable portion of it. But the battle to get people into a stadium at a lofty ticket price and keep them engaged is ongoing. TV money may drive all sports leagues and conferences, but no one wants to watch a studio sport. We want to feel like we’re part of that passionate stadium experience even when we don’t want to put up with all that comes with that experience.
I’m not sure I agree with everything there — there are plenty of people who will watch the early slate of bowls, which, from a live attendance standpoint, are essentially studio sports — but that last line is a perfect encapsulation of the dilemma athletic directors everywhere face in an era where broadcast partners call most of the shots. Not only do I think none of them have a real clue about what to do, I don’t think most of them even want to consider the problem. That’s troublesome, because for every program like Georgia that’s seen its fortunes suddenly explode, there are plenty of others that don’t have a reserve of fan enthusiasm like that to tap into. If there’s a growing gap in that regard, only TV is equipped to step into the breach, which will only serve to exacerbate the problem.