Category Archives: ESPN Is The Devil

Reading the tea leaves on college football’s declining attendance numbers

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.

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49 Comments

Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil

The cost of new and improved

I give Greg McElroy a lot of credit for saying this about the college football attendance drop:

“We are paying less and less attention to the schools that are not in contention,” the former Alabama quarterback said. “I would love to know, on a minute-by-minute basis, the comparison between the 10 teams that we discuss as having a chance at the College Football Playoff on this radio program. And, look, it’s not our fault. We go where the callers want to go. Where do we spend the majority of our time? We spend it on 10, maybe 15 teams. Maybe 20. Because it’s a caller-driven show and calls are most likely going to be on teams who are in contention for the College Football Playoff.

“The teams that aren’t, it feels like they don’t matter. It’s not really true, but people aren’t willing to spend their last dollar to go to a game. Ticket prices are expensive, concessions are expensive, and now you get an incredible experience watching it on your television screen. If your team is in contention for the playoff, you feel like you have to go: ‘I’m gonna go, I’ve gotta see them. This could be my only chance to see a national championship team, of course I’m going to go see them.’ So, they spend their last dollar trying to go to those games. Why do you think Bama was top-4 in attendance this year? It has to do with the stadium, sure, but it’s also because Bama is crazy about football. So, I do think if you’re in contention for the College Football Playoff, you’re going to get more attention and people are going to spend more money on you. If you’re not in contention, people would just assume say ‘Hey, I’ll watch ’em on TV. I’ll watch ’em on the SEC Network.’”

This is the price you pay for kissing ESPN’s ring, for taking Mickey’s money.  Because when ESPN decides it is in college football’s interest — meaning it’s in ESPN’s interest — to shift from its traditional regional appeal to a broader, national audience, this is what you get.  The conferences, the joy of college football for college football’s sake is diminished in a reach to attract more fans who are less passionate about the sport.  The result is an emphasis on the playoffs and a de-emphasis on what used to matter to the typical fan of a conference program.

For now, it’s not hitting us because Georgia is in the thick of things.  But McElroy’s making a lot of sense with regard to the bigger picture.  Given that Mickey signs his paycheck, it’s even a little brave on his part.  Not that anybody’s going to do anything about it.

58 Comments

Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil

Better get used to it.

Georgia checks in third in ESPN’s first 2018 preseason FPI, behind Clemson and Auburn Alabama.

The truly interesting part is that Georgia’s second on the offensive side, with Oklahoma being the only team ranked higher.  I guess we’re not going to hear many “the offensive  line is a real question mark” stories this summer.

22 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football

The weirdest signing day take

… goes to ESPN, who came up with this gem:

The classes are full, and the grades are out. Alabama, Ohio State and Texas impressed and earned the only three A-plus marks.

WTF?

And, yes, just to make sure, I checked and Georgia finished first in ESPN’s class rankings.

I guess Mickey grades on the curve.

16 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football, Recruiting

When you’re hot…

I wondered at the time the announcement was made that G-Day was scheduled for not the week of the Masters or even the week after the Masters, but a full two weeks afterwards, if that was a hint that Mickey might have something special in store.

Looks like that’s the case.

ESPN networks will televise 13 SEC Spring football games in 2018, according to ESPN MediaZone programming listings (h/t @lsufootballnet).

Spring football game action in the SEC kicks off on Saturday, March 31 with South Carolina’s annual Garnet-Black Game. The game is set for noon ET on the SEC Network.

Alabama, the defending national champions, will play their A-Day Game on Saturday, April 21 at 2:00pm ET on ESPN. Georgia, who fell to the Crimson Tide in the National Championship, follows Alabama with their G-Day Game at 4:00pm ET on ESPN.

Georgia and ‘Bama are the only two SEC programs who will play on the WWL.  Every other school is relegated to ESPNU, the SEC Network or the Ocho (I keed about the last).

Something else to sell on the recruiting trail…

14 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football

Too cool for school

Really, this is too precious.

“Really cool”?  When’s the last time anyone thought PAWWWLLL was cool?

16 Comments

Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, ESPN Is The Devil, SEC Football

Welp, there goes one expansion talking point.

Turns out America didn’t have a problem tuning in to an all-SEC national title game.

ESPN’s presentation of the epic College Football Playoff National Championship between Georgia and Alabama (Jan. 8 at 8 p.m.) delivered a massive 16.7 overnight on its Nielsen-rated networks (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU) as part of its MegaCast production, up 9% from last season’s thrilling College Football Playoff National Championship on the same three Nielsen-rated networks. The ESPN-only presentation delivered a monster 16.0 overnight for the Crimson Tide’s overtime victory, up 8% from the ESPN-only presentation last season, a game which featured a dramatic, last minute touchdown to win the game.

I guess the pundits jonesing for an eight-team field who were predicting doom-and-gloom boredom will have to fall back on a “poor ol’ Central Florida” argument.  Sucks when a narrative doesn’t pan out…

33 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil