Today, in asses in the seats

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.

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40 Comments

Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

40 responses to “Today, in asses in the seats

  1. illini84

    Oh, the free market will fix it.

    Like

  2. Matthew Allen

    Not to defend the Gators, but most Georgia games I’ve ever been to have lots of empty pockets 10 minutes prior to kickoff (but never as bad as this photo). I wonder if it was any better with 7:00 left in the 1st quarter?

    Like

  3. You’re probably right. I also think there are some larger cultural/societal/demographic issues at play to.

    Plus, the killer app: HDTV is spectacular.

    Like

  4. stoopnagle

    …and now I’m embarrassed that I didn’t think to make the “drain the swamp” joke first. (Was in the twitter responses)

    Like

  5. MDDawg

    There were plenty of empty seats at the national championship game last year with 10 minutes till kickoff. Although that probably had more to do with security and people not being able to load up their tickets on their phones.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. PTC DAWG

    My comment on your linked blog post stands.

    Like

  7. AusDawg85

    The old product was attending an event. With no alternative, the only way to raise revenue was to add capacity. Cable/ESPN/HDTV, etc. have changed the product to entertainment. As more people choose entertainment, the market for the attending goes down. Adding seats won’t fix that (looking at you TAMU). I think college stadiums for top Power 5 conferences should shift to changing their product to enhancing the attendance experience. Better and fewer seats, better concessions, better supplements to on field action (e.g. Jerry World). The old model / product is gone and the sooner AD’s catch-up the better IMHO. The ideal future for UGA would be to preserve the field and the hedges, but tear down Sanford and rebuild an open dome. Incorporate Tate and even the Meyers Quad dorms into the new facility (how cool would it be to have a dorm room that is inside the stadium?). As donors, we’d only need to pony-up about $1.5 billion to do this. Probably time to see if Budweiser is interested in naming rights.

    Liked by 1 person

    • GruvenDawg

      Notre Dame likes your idea

      Like

    • Anonymous

      The first stage should be the installation of seat-backs in the lower bowl except for the student / band section. They can’t install really nice seats since the row sizes were designed for bleacher style seating, but they can work with a seating company to make something suitable. The next step is to tear down the 600 level seats. They never should have been built in the first place. The support structure took up the space the needed for installing more bathrooms / concessions on the north side. The third step is to convert the 300 level North Deck into something akin to the renovations at L.A. Memorial Colosseum with club seats, loge boxes, and suites.

      This leaves the South and East side 300 level as the budget seats and an overall capacity in the 70-75K range.

      Like

      • stoopnagle

        I think you mean convert the south side and let the north side (that’s in the sun the whole game) into cheap seats. There ain’t a Master’s visor big enough to save you from the September sun during a noon game.

        Like

        • Anonymous

          I haven’t sat on the North side, except for club seats, since I was a student. Back then, I was young, drunk, and didn’t care. I can’t speak for how bad the sun is there now. Doing that construction on the South side would be much more difficult unless you remove the current suites as well. That could made sense if they didn’t do this until it was time for a complete renovation of them. Even then, the Chemistry building is in the way. What I’m talking about do is much more complicated than adding the suites or the 3rd deck was. I’m not a construction engineer, so I would leave decisions of practicality to the experts.

          There is nothing that prevents building roofing sections over the seating with fans / other cooling devices since it would mostly be clustered seating in loge boxes and suites.

          Like

        • I’m no expert, but I seem to see a trend in stadium upgrades where they try to catch more potential customers by offering the either/or without all the benefits or drawbacks being heaped into 1 section. In other words, club out the sunny north side knowing you’ll get bites on the additional leg space as a trade off for hot early season games, while others might pay the same premium for only bleacher seats in the shade. An all-or-nothing just gets you an empty North Side sooner rather than later, IMO.

          If I’m a planner, I upgrade my less desirable locations first, with the belief that folks will (at least for a while or we have much bigger problems) likely still sit on a bed of rocks in Section 131.

          Like

  8. 83Dawg

    Metal bleachers with limited space are fine for the length of time a college game should take. Those days are not coming back for a while, though. On the bright side, if Sanford quits selling out, maybe I’ll be able to afford to go to home games again!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. St. Johns Dawg

    I don’t buy the “it’s too expensive” argument when your team is not winning at a high level and not competing for championships. If the Gators were Alabama-like in success on the field AND not putting butts in seats, I would buy this argument. If your team is winning, you go find the money to attend the game if that’s important to you … It always seems to be much more important/fun/exciting when the team is winning.
    Anybody that doesn’t want to attend a UGA game due to all the points mentioned (TV coverage and less travel hassle) is perfectly fine … Just be sure to note how many empty seats you see on TV Saturday night (it won’t be many). Record number of donors to UGA Athletic Assciation just for the right to BUY tickets this year – All because of the expectation of continued winning.
    Now … Leaving early when the game is essentially over … That’s another story.

    Like

    • stoopnagle

      Those beers in the coolers back at the tailgate ain’t gonna drink themselves, you know?

      Like

    • Dolly Llama

      Is everybody at this site a millionaire? Elsewhere on this thread, someone talked about how they were in their ’30s and felt like the youngest Dawg fans in Lexington. Know why the millennials aren’t there? They. Can’t. Fucking. Afford It.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. Beer Money

    I have said this before and will say it again. The biggest problem is not just TV times. The biggest problem is that ADs have continued to raise ticket prices and bury their collective heads in the sand even though there is overwhelming evidence that less people are attending games than they used to. Athletic departments are so greedy and worried about the secondary ticket market that they think they can price every seat comparable to what you see on Stubhub for a big game with some kind of importance. It simply does not make any sense whatsoever.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. MGW

    First, obviously TV drives the ridiculous scheduling. See Michigan playing inder lights and LSU olaying noon games.

    Second, until somebody at the very top of one of these schools or conferences has the balls to state that fixing this in spite of lost revenue is a goal, it ain’t going to happen. Until then, every single person involved has only one goal, self preservation, which means the biggest dollar figure possible next to whatever it is you’re in charge of at your next performance review. Damn the long term consequences.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Russ

    The answer is obviously to remove seats for corporate luxury suites and to add personal seat licenses. Plus the scheduling issue will be worked out when we go to four super conferences and we play a selection of games from each conference. The schedule and TV times will be set at the end of the previous season based on your record.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Captain Obvious

    Things will get fun when they realize they can blackout the local coverage waiting on a sellout. …

    Like

  14. stoopnagle

    Well, on the bright side, once ESPN gets finished NASCARing CFB to death, we can go back to the good old days of ADs caring if people show up.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. UGA '97

    No prob Gators, McGarity’s got you covered, you take first game in the home and home.

    Like

  16. The second half TV stoppages and other delays got pretty frustrating from the stands in Lexington during the 2nd half. Was it noticeable from the couch ?
    I’m still a pretty big “in the stadium” guy, but the crowd is definitely aging, which should be worrisome. Late 30s and I felt like we were the youngest Dawg fans there. Now, that’s a road game…….but there are still some transitive properties because I guarantee there would have been more 20 somethings there 15 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Spur 21

    Four hours for a game is the killer in my book.

    A couple of years ago I started recording the games and delayed watching for about 45 minutes. I can zip through the TV timeouts – commercials – REPLAYS and talking heads.

    If I don’t know the score or what happened I don’t see any downside. If timed correctly I can watch what should be a 2 hour game in 2 hours or less.

    Like

    • 92 grad

      You’re doing good stuff there, but, on the couch, more football is just fine. And I know it’s not technically more football but watching a 5 hour game is a lot easier at home. I’m one of the “the season goes by so fast, I’m ok with slowing it down” but yes, there is a line and it will be crossed for everyone at some point.

      Like

  18. JoshG

    If money is in the TV (and it is), why not reduce ticket prices with a goal to sell out every game? The noise level provided by the low paying “riff raff” beats the “down in front” high dollar alums any day.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Bright Idea

    Older SEC fans ain’t never gonna get jacked over playing Mizzou and a bunch of cupcakes a week after losing the big game. Lots of reasons for declining attendance but TV and ticket prices are 1 and 1A. The young folks ain’t gonna stay if admitted for free.

    Like

  20. Chi-town Dawg

    Some very interesting ideas being suggested especially in terms of stadium renovations or complete rebuilds. However, the challenge becomes the substantial existing debt that exists from added capacity, so taking away significant amounts of seats or building new stadiums is unlikely in the next 10 years. My guess is UGA, Bama and TA&M are still paying off their enormous debts for the seats they added. Trying to remain revenue neutral by removing 20k to 25k seats ain’t easy even when adding more seat backs, suites, etc.

    The other challenge with an NFL type approach is that colleges can’t threaten to leave the state if taxpayers don’t help them fund a new stadium. In today’s tight budgets, schools are struggling to get what they can by trying to maximize revenue from all existing sources. It’s like a crack addict, they know they’ve gotta quit, but find it very hard to stop buying more drugs. I think the answer will probably take the form of charging more on a pay per view basis or other TV related changes, but fewer interested fans means fewer people willing to shell out $1,500 to $5,000 a year whether it’s for tickets or HDTV. Lots of questions, not many answers.

    Like

  21. JCDawg83

    Like everything, the free market will solve the problem. Unfortunately for someone; the fans, the programs, the networks, the free market is coldly and brutally efficient in its solutions. NASCAR is the perfect case study of what happens when a business thinks its product is so valuable and in so much demand that market forces and economic principles no longer apply to it.

    Like

  22. DawgPhan

    I will say after sitting in the traffic around the stadium in lexinton that I think UGA does a really great job with traffic on games days.

    Tailgating and traffic were never my issues. It was always the experience inside the stadium that was not improving but the tickets got more and more expensive.

    Like

  23. W Cobb Dawg

    “…asses in the seats.” Like what you did there, Brother Bluto. If we’re talkin gator fans, they’re all asses!

    Like

  24. Robert Westmoreland

    Bottom line is that the younger folks will not “pay up” now like us older season tickets holders have done in the past.I think the cost over rides the stadium improvements, etc.The “ADs” had better take note of this and wise up real fast

    Like

    • DawgPhan

      Its an easy $10k a season tailgate at Georgia games. And that’s not going to away games or bowls.

      As a value proposition I dont think that UGA games are doing very well these days.

      Like

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