Sports Illustrated: Why Is College Football Attendance Tanking?

CuseJacket

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Sports Illustrated: Unexcused Absence: Why Is College Football Attendance Tanking?
As college football prepares to crown its latest champion, the game is facing a much bigger question than Clemson or LSU: namely, why are crowds at stadiums across the country shrinking? University administrators have tried fix after fix—but without ever diagnosing a root cause beyond 'kids these days.' To get to the heart of the problem, we set out on a journey across the college football landscape.
Florida isn’t alone—and plenty other schools have it much worse. From 2014 to ’18, attendance across the FBS fell by 7.6%. Last year, on average, 41,856 fans went to games. That’s the lowest turnout since 1996; even major programs like Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Ole Miss suffered declines of greater than 5%. The NCAA has yet to release its full report on 2019’s numbers, but pictures of nearly-empty stadiums, from big to small programs, popped up every fall weekend on Twitter. During bowl season, as games moved to neutral sites, the stands were so empty it looked more like spring football. Even athletic directors will openly admit it: College football is facing an attendance crisis.
I want to find out—and tease apart the reasons for all the empty seats—which is why I’m sitting alone in Florida’s student section on a lovely November day during a blowout of Vanderbilt. I’m starting here in Gainesville, in hopes of understanding why a resurgent program in the SEC—the SEC!—is struggling to fill its stadium. Then I’ll visit Clemson, where the Tigers didn’t sell out a single game during last season’s perfect championship campaign and did so only three times this season, despite another undefeated run to the title game. Last, I’ll head to the Horseshoe to watch Ohio State face Penn State in a classic late-season Big Ten showdown. If the stock market fell as abruptly as Buckeyes’ student season ticket sales did this year, we’d be in a massive recession.
 

jayparr

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cost, traffic, and yes much more on tv. Also your favorite team may be on every game! A lot of people years ago had to buy tickets to see most of their teams games.
 

RyanS12

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To me it’s time (family) multiple games on tv and my couch is a hell of a lot more comfortable than hard metal bleachers. My few times at BDS have been great but my experiences in Ann Arbor, East Lansing or South Bend were ehhh. Especially when you have 106k people smothering you on a 90 degree day or a ****ty fall rain/snow storm.
I have some die hard Michigan fans who have told me this is the last year they were buying season tix because it’s so uncomfortable and the prices keep going up. The tailgate is more fun than the games tend to be.
 

Sarrick

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I think the younger generation of football fans don’t have the money to buy tickets and if they did, the cost is higher than the desire to go.!

so while the older fans are getting to the point where they can’t go to games anymore, there’s no new younger population to replace them in the stands
 

HurricaneJacket

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Its a multi faceted problem that has as many reasons as schools, but I think there are a couple of overarching trends.

1. TV is king: everything seems to be done at the behest of and for the benifit of the TV gods. From kick times being announced between 6 and 14 days ahead of time (instead of at the start of the season), to putting kids and fans out in 100 degree weather at noon. The schools have bowed to TV, so the fans are flocking over there instead of the stadium.

2. Prices keep rising for products that are losing relative value. With the exception of very few teams, costs are climbing foe tickets, but championships at any level are not coming with it.

Combine those two things with fans obviously being the least important consideration and attendence drops precipitously.
 

chris975d

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Its a multi faceted problem that has as many reasons as schools, but I think there are a couple of overarching trends.

1. TV is king: everything seems to be done at the behest of and for the benifit of the TV gods. From kick times being announced between 6 and 14 days ahead of time (instead of at the start of the season), to putting kids and fans out in 100 degree weather at noon. The schools have bowed to TV, so the fans are flocking over there instead of the stadium.

2. Prices keep rising for products that are losing relative value. With the exception of very few teams, costs are climbing foe tickets, but championships at any level are not coming with it.

Combine those two things with fans obviously being the least important consideration and attendence drops precipitously.
I think you have hit on the biggest part of it...TV. Everything and everyone has literally been catering to TV for a while now. Everything has been done to increase the attractiveness to watch games on TV (or otherwise TV wouldn’t be throwing so much money into it), so I don’t really understand why some of those same powers that be are surprised that the game day attendance has decreased. Especially when, as you (and others here have stated) that the cost to attend has gone up. It’s far easier and cheaper for the average person to watch on TV. Game day attendance is getting to the point of being only for the financially well off, of which most of the US is not.
 

Josh H

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No one has mentioned the TV timeouts. It's not that bad if you are at home, chances are you're DVRing the game and at least you have the freedom to get up and refill your drink, etc.

But at the game? You're already cramped in your seats, can barely get out to go anywhere, and every 5 minutes is a TV timeouts. Couple that with replay, the prevalance of no huddle hurry up and the game day experience for the in person fan has generally gotten worse.

Now there's even a guy with a timer letting you know how long the TV timeouts will last, which somehow makes it worse.
 

Bogey404

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Big screen, high definition TV's which are a few steps from your fridge full of beer and snacks, and long and too many TV commercials which destroy the flow of the game. Beer sales and less commercials would help.

Sent from my ASUS_Z01RD using Tapatalk
 

tmhunter52

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As the ticket prices increase, the cost per hour of entertainment increases UNLESS one expands the overall entertainment time with pregame and postgame activities. In other words, the longer the ticket holder is entertained, the greater value he perceives comes with the ticket. Tech should encourage and facilitate tailgating all day on game day, including after the game. Concerts, activities/skills contests, etc for kids on the field after the teams have cleared. Set up a carnival with kiddie rides on the parking deck. Clowns, jugglers, balloons. Basically, emulate a Carnival or Disney cruise line ship with lots and lots to do - something to appeal to everyone.
 

33jacket

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Tv hd and quality is so much better now than 20 years ago people now have massive tvs that is a better view than being there and you dont spend a whole day. I think thats a huge part of it. In 1990 you had a 30 inch tube tv with half the cameras etc. and only a small spattering og games were on. Now its so different.

until college stadiums entice people in other ways I think this trend of low attendance stays.

for instance alcohol sales
Better pricing ncaa games now as expensive or more than pro sports.

etc etc
 

bobongo

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A sixteen team playoff would do a lot to keep more fan bases engaged for longer during the season. Now that game in late November between two 8-3 teams really matters vs. just being a run-of-the-mill game.
What's the difference? They would all still be on TV.
 

Oakland

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I agree with too many games on TV, plus many television replays and Youtube. Probably in ten years, larger schools will be pining for smaller stadiums. That could be a good thing.
 

Buzztheirazz

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Big screen, high definition TV's which are a few steps from your fridge full of beer and snacks, and long and too many TV commercials which destroy the flow of the game. Beer sales and less commercials would help.

Sent from my ASUS_Z01RD using Tapatalk
Need to shorten half time like the NFL did as well. Or at least allow you to exit and re-enter like clemson does.
 

RickStromFan

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Really nice, inexpensive TVs + expensive tickets + the general pain-in-the-*** it is to get to a game vs watching it on your own comfortable couch = More people would rather stay at home.
The exact same thing is happening across the NFL.
 

bobongo

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As the ticket prices increase, the cost per hour of entertainment increases UNLESS one expands the overall entertainment time with pregame and postgame activities. In other words, the longer the ticket holder is entertained, the greater value he perceives comes with the ticket. Tech should encourage and facilitate tailgating all day on game day, including after the game. Concerts, activities/skills contests, etc for kids on the field after the teams have cleared. Set up a carnival with kiddie rides on the parking deck. Clowns, jugglers, balloons. Basically, emulate a Carnival or Disney cruise line ship with lots and lots to do - something to appeal to everyone.
Clowns and jugglers? You forgot the sarcasm emoticon.
 
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