According to NCAA reporting documents obtained by the Missourian through an open-records request, the average number of tickets scanned for the football team’s seven home contests in 2018 was 24,377 per game, or roughly 47 percent of what the school reported in its game box scores.
Athletic department officials, however, say the numbers they reported to the NCAA aren’t a full picture of the actual ticketed attendance in the 2018 season because faulty scanners, which were sensitive to the elements, and poor Wi-Fi connectivity forced event staffers to move large swaths of fans through the gates without recording their tickets into the system. No estimate was available for how many unscanned tickets were allowed into the stadium.
No offense, guys, but “the dog ate my homework” defense didn’t work in the fifth grade, so why you would expect it to work now?
Mizzou says it tracks on the basis of tickets sold, and from a bottom line standpoint, I suppose that’s what matters, but there’s this, too:
“You lose concessions and merchandise, but I also think you lose the home-field advantage that you want,” said Jay Luksis, Missouri’s executive associate athletic director for marketing and revenue generation.
And here’s the super yikes moment:
“We’ve seen it a lot here lately where we’re either up big or we’re behind, and there hasn’t been a ton of close games in the three years I’ve been here. … And we need to do everything we can to entertain them while they are here because obviously we want them to stay. But sometimes it’s tough to compete with parties and restaurants and bars downtown, and also with TV.”
The school is doing what it can to combat the problem, most visibly by holding the line or cutting ticket prices, but we all know what the real problem is.
Missouri’s athletic department, like many of its peers, faces an uphill climb in getting people back into the stadium. Over the past four years, college football attendance has declined by more than 7 percent nationwide, and that’s simply using the announced attendance numbers. In 2017, the SEC, which led college football in attendance for the 20th consecutive season, saw its average attendance decline by 2,433 fans per game — the league’s biggest drop-off since 1992.
Through its media rights contracts with CBS and ESPN, which owns the SEC Network, the conference has more football games nationally televised — and more revenue from those televised games — than ever before. But it also must reckon with the options those broadcasts provide to its fans. They no longer have to come to the game to see their team play, and depending on cost, weather, traffic and ultimately their physical place in the stadium, watching from home is often more convenient and cost-effective.
If you can’t or won’t figure out a way to counter that, it’s not going to improve. The reality for schools is that as broadcast contracts grow ever more lucrative, there’s less incentive to find ways to offset declining home attendance. Missouri’s gonna get the same SEC Network check no matter how many cupcakes it schedules. Not exactly a recipe for success, in other words.