Otherwise known as no mid-major program can serve two masters…
Memphis is coming off its best five-year stretch in program history, which includes an AAC championship in 2014.
Success, however, hasn’t kept the program immune from attendance problems that have plagued college football. While NCAA attendance figures haven’t been released from 2018, attendance in 2017 had its largest drop in 34 years.
It’s something Bowen knows firsthand as a member of the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee. While he felt this season was a solid year attendance wise, he knows that Memphis and other schools are competing with fans who seek cheaper options to watch games and have more games to watch on television.
He added there have been discussions about bringing back pregame activities to add to the Tiger Walk and continuing to push fans to purchase season tickets. Bowen did not say what those activities would be.
“It’s critical for us to keep aggressively marketing, aggressively pushing forward, re-evaluating what worked and what didn’t work,” said Bowen, “We’re going to do some dynamic ticket pricing this season which we haven’t done in the past which we’ll announce soon.”
Declining attendance is another reason the AAC has pushed for a better media rights deal when the current one expires in 2020. Memphis president David Rudd is a part of the negotiations with AAC commissioner Mike Aresco, and the conference is in an exclusive negotiating window with ESPN, according to an interview Bowen did with Sports56 WHBQ on Monday
With seven of the 12 AAC schools reporting a decrease in attendance from the 2018 season, there’s hope that revenue from a new deal will easily exceed the $2 million each school is currently receiving.
“If you’re going to have a situation where you sell all your media rights, you need to be compensated in a way that it helps offset loss of ticket revenue, so that’s why our media deal is really important for the AAC because my colleagues are seeing the same thing,” Bowen said.
All the aggressive marketing in the world isn’t going to offset shitty start times that depress live crowd numbers imposed on you by your broadcast partner, dude. And you’ll have no choice but to become even more dependent on Mickey’s money as your attendance numbers continue to decline. That’s what constitutes tradition in today’s college football world.
5 responses to “TFW you’re chasing your own tail”
Agree, the wheels are already in motion. ADs can attempt to make the package more attractive but inertia will run its course and erode the traditions that once hooked us. I don’t see the replacements for those of us who have already backed away (and will continue to leave over the next few years.) 50K capacity stadiums will become the norm again, although I don’t know how you undo the “recent” expansions, it will take a lot of new air conditioned, luxury boxes.
Mac, if it follows the NFL model (and I think it will), those 50k seats will be majority luxury boxes and personal seat licenses for the corporate crowd. The days of sitting with your fellow alumni to cheer on good old State U. are coming to an end.
I agree, but they cannot build enough corporate boxes to take care of the extra space they will have to fill. It isn’t just the seats in the stadium, they have been killing off the tailgating for 15+ years, and it is that socialization hook that has really driven the butts in the seats. As much fun as live football is, the game itself isn’t what has kept so many “seniors” buying all those season passes to see an increasingly larger number of bad matchups. And the TV experience these days have made it an easy reason to trade off attending the games, it is the tailgating my man.
I think you would be surprised to see how quickly ticket sales fall off if you banned on-campus tailgating at UGA, even if you had an abundance of luxury, efficient busses running fans to the exact gate they need from free parking satellite lots around the perimeter. It is that time before, and after, games that makes the CFB world spin….especially in the South. Lose that, or continue to intrude upon it, and you will be able to offer free tickets and won’t get packed houses in a few years. You basically see that now with cupcake games, and that is with over half the stadium invested in season tickets and tailgating still allowed…with rules of course. Home games are the High Holy Days of the fall for many who need that social fix. Don’t underestimate it, that is the key driver of the attendance base.
You will still get Johnny T-Shirt, and Jenny Cutoffs to buy some individual tickets for select games but the Mamas and the Papas that buy their tickets for thousands at a time, up front, will be home hosting catered parties….and wondering why they didn’t do that before. It is a part of what Adams and guys like McFrugal don’t get. Once that “tradition” is broken, it will not be coming back. Instead of making tailgating more comfortable, they pushed back and set up barriers to make it more difficult and restrictive. It is the opium that hooked folks for generations, but it doesn’t look, or feel the same to me these days. I am too old to put up with it, others are in their forties and fifties and already getting tired of the hassle. I understand it won’t happen overnight but, collectively, the edges are starting to fray and show a few cracks.
I live close enough to hear the PA announcer on gamedays at the liberty bowl. You’re exactly right—programs like Memphis are going to really have to do some soul searching regarding their best offers in the next media rights negotiation. They’re not even getting enough money to tread water (if becoming / competing in a Power 5 world is the ultimate goal), yet are beholden to FUBAR dates and times that helps depress attendance.
BUT (there’s always a but) the AD is blowing smoke up everybody’s ass regarding difficult scheduling. 4 of Memphis’ peers in the AAC have DOUBLE (DOUBLE ! ! !) the number Power 5 non-conference opponents over the next 5 seasons. And many of them are getting return games or at least 2 for 1s. Hell Texas is going to USF ! ! He knows he can blow smoke up the fans asses by saying “they’re all afraid to lose to us” when really it’s more like he and Mike Norvell get a cushy bonus based on number of wins and bowl appearances, even if it’s Birmingham.
Literally, this dude is scheduling non-conference games like Memphis has the clout of Alabama with the backing of an SEC schedule. This year they play AT South Alabama and AT Louisiana Monroe and have FCS Southern at home. You can’t schedule like that if you’re trying to grow your brand and increase attendance. Many local would-be season ticket holders are SEC alumni that would be happy to support the tigers (it’s an easy venue to attend, great tailgating setup, serves alcohol in the stadium) if the schedule had a modicum of interest. It looks like all they’re doing though is lining their pockets with easy Wins.
RIP the days of Independents:
Sep 3, 1988 Sat Memphis @ Ole Miss SEC L 6- 24
Sep 10, 1988 Sat Memphis Arkansas State Non-Major W 9- 7
Sep 17, 1988 Sat Memphis @ Louisville Ind L 18-29
Sep 24, 1988 Sat Memphis @ Tulane Ind L 19-20
Oct 1, 1988 Sat Memphis Mississippi State SEC W 31-10
Oct 8, 1988 Sat Memphis @ (14) Florida SEC W 17 -11
Oct 22, 1988 Sat Memphis Tennessee SEC L 25-38
Oct 29, 1988 Sat Memphis @ Southern Mississippi Ind L 27-34
Nov 5, 1988 Sat Memphis Louisiana Ind W 20-3
Nov 12, 1988 Sat Memphis Tulsa Ind W 26-20
Nov 19, 1988 Sat Memphis Vanderbilt SEC W 28-9