You may have heard that the attendance at Florida’s Homecoming Game against Missouri was its smallest home total since 1990. (Wouldn’t that make it ever, according to most Gator fans? But I digress.) Crowd size was announced as 80,017, well under capacity, but judging from this picture, that seems somewhat generous.
Again, that’s for a conference game against a divisional opponent.
Anyway, what’s interesting is how that’s a starting point for this article (h/t Kyle) about why attendance is down at so many schools. And not by a little bit, either.
Average attendance at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium has dropped each of the last four seasons, from 90,065 in 2015 to 82,427 this year. And with less-than-stellar matchups with South Carolina and Idaho left, don’t be surprised if that number falls more…
… At FSU, attendance has tumbled since Willie Taggart’s debut (75,237). If the current average (69,757) holds, it’ll be the first time since 1992 that the average crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium was less than 70,000. And back then, Doak’s capacity was only 70,123.
Why? The Tampa Bay Times asked some fans for their explanations and got feedback. Sure, winning is an obvious reason, although Florida’s decline ran through two seasons of the Gators winning the SEC East and attendance figures at Alabama (!) and Kentucky are down this season.
The rest of the list? See if you can find the common theme.
The most common reason we heard? It’s too expensive.
“What I have seen appears to be a big money machine that is slowly choosing to price people out,” said Paul Zuccarini, a UF alumnus who travels to a game or two each year from Key Biscayne.
David Gracy agrees.
When the 57-year-old FSU alumnus first bought Seminoles season tickets twenty-plus years ago, they cost about $150 each, including a booster donation. Now they’re more than $700.
“Probably what broke the camel’s back was the increasingly high amounts of money the boosters required in order to maintain our seats,” Gracy said.
Gracy stopped going to games two years ago for other reasons, too, which were among the common complaints we heard.
Because TV partners determine schedules, fans won’t learn the kickoff times for some Nov. 17 games (Boston College at FSU, USF at Temple) until Sunday. Six days isn’t much time for a North Carolina resident like Gracy to figure out his travel plans to Tallahassee. It’s probably not a coincidence that visiting SEC schools are giving back more unsold tickets, as The Gainesville Sun reported over the summer.
Staying at home has become a more attractive option to some. You don’t have to worry about sweating out noon kickoffs, driving home after a prime-time game or sitting for four hours in uncomfortable stands.
“Metal bleachers with very limited space,” said Darrell Card, a Gainesville resident who has cut his UF games down from four or five a year to one or two.
It’s television, of course. It fuels the big schools’ money chase, it affects scheduling and it provides folks fed up with the in-game experience with a viable alternative. I don’t see that changing any time soon, either, at least not as long as eyeballs are more efficient at generating revenue than asses are.
Which is all the more reason why I think this is a significant hint at where things are headed.