Should College Football be Worried About Attendance Dropping?
With all the talk about attendance and TV ratings issues in the NFL, you might not have noticed College Football is having problems too.
Believe it or not, the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) teams actually dropped by over 1,400 people per game this season. The drop was the sharpest since 1983.
CBS Sports reported a 10-year statistical breakdown of attendance. Which really points out the problem
Or to put it more succinctly, average attendance in 2017 was 42,203--the lowest number since 1997.
Mind you, the drop has been happening for years, its just getting increasingly bigger each year. FBS teams averaged a record 46,971 in 2008 which would mark a 4,700 person on average drop over 10-years.
Yeah, sure, you can attribute the decline to a number of factors. TV, Social Media, other entertainment options all which come into play.
However if you are say, the SEC, you probably should be a little worried. College Football's "Marquee" conference suffered the biggest attendance drop of all, losing some 2,400 fans on average per game in 2017.
You could make excuses and say--it's the little FBS teams in the Sun Belt and Mountain West and places like that which are the issue. And you wouldn't totally be wrong. Many teams at that level have stadiums which don't even sit 40,000 people
But for every one of those teams you have a Michigan, Penn State or Tennessee and others with 100,000 plus seat stadiums.
I won't even get into Bowl Games, which have lost roughly 23% of their paid attendance since 2010. Why anyone would pay money to travel to some of the bizarre locations hosting lower level meaningless games is beyond me.
If you actually watched any bowl games--you'd see the problem. Empty stands. No incentive for students or alums to pay a couple grand to travel to say Denton, Texas or Boise to see a game that means zilch....
Which brings me back to the bigger problem. For the most part of Students. College Football has gradually steered away from being a "Student Friendly" game. Tickets at many schools were once given away to students or offered at severely discounted prices in order to get them in the door.
And while some schools still do that, the bigger schools are charging more and more money for student seats. Many have decided they could make more money selling those seats to boosters or alumni willing to pay full price to be in the stadium.
Students have so many other options for entertainment and it appears some have decided it isn't worth their time to spend the day or in many cases the night at a football game.
Is it time for the FBS schools or the NCAA to panic over this---no....but it is something they need to address.
TV (ESPN) money has made the game a big, big business catering to an upscale crowd in many cases. And if you go to a "Power 5" school, chances are the alums are forking over large amounts of money for the right to pay a lot of money for seats. (In the NFL its called PSL)
And having that, combined with luxury boxes make schools a bit less willing to hand over 10,000 or whatever number of seats for free to kids that may--or may not actually come.
It's a battle the NFL has on a bit of a different level, but a battle never the less. So many have discovered Football can be really, really fun to watch with a smaller group of people on a crystal, clear Hi-Def, 70 inch TV screen without the hassle of cramming yourself into a bench seat in the middle of 90,000 or so other people.
The challenge for FBS schools and the NFL is now: How do you get those people back?