Coming to grips with college football’s declining attendance

(Patrick) #1

Need a subscription, but this is a good article about declining attendance. It basically comes to the conclusion that the in-game experience is competing with television.

And that brings me to the second quandary, which is that, in a way, college football is competing against its own televised product. “They’re kind of going head-to-head,” Malekoff says. “TV is much more like the game-day experience now. There’s food. There’s a bathroom right there.”

By shifting many kickoff times six to 12 days before the game, television has made it harder for people to plan ahead to attend. People with children may have their Saturdays scheduled around soccer games; older people might not want to drag themselves to an 8 p.m. game, and students might not want to drag themselves out of bed for a noon start against a subpar opponent. People are always going to complain about the cost, but in a way, Popp wonders, the time commitment could matter more than the monetary commitment.

(John Simpson) #2

The reasons they cite for fans not attending a college football game on Saturday is the same list of excuses cited when UH has a poorly attended game. Turns out we don’t have a lousy fan base so much as a typical fan base that reacts to the same decisions faced by all college football fans. And yes there are always exceptions to the rule. If they cooked the books such that UH would be able to play for the national championship every year (Alabama) our attendance would be more robust and consistent also.


I don’t know where this guy grew up or which generation he is but my very middle class family has had Tv’s since the '50s, food since forever, and indoor plumbing since the 1880’s.

We’ve gone around and around on the attendance issue. IMHO, die hard fans always go, and everyone else has to be enticed.

I analyzed our schedule with Bama, The OSU, Whorns, and ATM for the past few years. Bama and The OSU have by far fewer sucky start times, but Buckeyes vs Wolverines is almost always an 11 AM start. These teams practically never play on week night’s unless it’s Thaknsgiving.

Not sure if I still have the spreadsheet but if I do I’ll post it later.


Fall temperature and humidity in Ohio and Michigan is different than fall temperature and humidity in Houston, Texas, where it usually stays hot and humid until around Thanksgiving.

About “and indoor plumbing since the 1880s”, well some people just like to brag. :wink:

(jimmyschofield) #5

Let’s face it, you have to be a die hard Coog fan to attend our games. It’s easy, though very expensive I’m sure, to attend a blue blood program when you know your team has a realistic chance at winning a national championship every year.

(Nathan) #6

Believe it or not there was much of rural America that didn’t have indoor plumbing until the 1950s.

(Patrick) #7

They do mention the Gameday experience as being part of attracting fans. What are schools doing to entice fans to come to the games instead of just showing up, sitting in a seat, and going home.

This is where the arguments in regards to the location of the RV lot and “customer care” come in. Again, there are those that don’t really care about that, and that’s fine, but there are those regular fans that do want something that differentiates going to the game rather than staying at home.

What I hear from a lot of the bigger school fanbases is that the game isn’t just the game…it’s a chance to come together, meet old friends, hang out. I know our Tech friend that comes around a few times, mentions that is why folks show up to Tech games even when they aren’t winning…and that includes driving in from places like Houston every Saturday. Houston is building that, but as things keep getting moved around, it really hasn’t taken off in a way to continue to attract the casual fans that would be interested in that.

In the end, if the Coogs win, folks will show up.

(User was banned for sending threatening/abusive messages.) #8


Much by land area or much by number of households?

(Mike Higdon) #10

Here is an indisputable fact – it is much colder at night in September and October in Wisconsin, Ohio and other great lakes states than in Houston and most all of the Gulf coast states. Day games take advantage of solar radiant heat. With sunshine, sitting in the cold and wind is more bearable.

I always thought there would come a time when television oversaturated the sport. Yes, in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s we had TV games. But, we didn’t have every game on TV. When I was a kid, you would have a game on CBS and a game on ABC. I can’t remember if there was one on NBC as we only had 2 stations. Most games were not for teams in our area, we saw a lot of Big 10, Notre Dame, and Army-Navy games. If you wanted to see LSU, you had to actually go see LSU. I listened to many games on the radio.

In the 60’s, more games were available. I mean more Saturday day games and even LSU got on a time or two. The NCAA regulated how many games each team could have on in order to keep a team from getting too much of an advantage. So seeing a team more than once a year was very rare – there are more teams than Saturdays in September through November. Teams only played 10 games and LSU started its season the 2nd or 3rd Saturday in September and they were at night because it is cooler. Comfort of the fans was actually taken into account. Of course at LSU, so were pre and post game parties.

So, now you can take your pick of who you want to see and can watch football almost every night and on Saturdays from 10:00am to midnight. Yeah, I can see why attendance is down.


Wifi works at home.

(Ryon Adams) #12

YYa know, all this talk about declining college football attendance seems to ignore one REALLY big thing:

Division I-FBS college football remains, in terms of average attendance per event, the highest attended non-professional sport in the world…BY FAR!!! Nothing else even comes close.

College football is not going anywhere as long as that remains true.

Given that, I’d say that these concerns over college football attendance are at least somewhat overblown.

(Cary) #13



True. Nevertheless, those teams still play night games in the cold and rain/snow. Cold is to them what heat is to us, an inconvenience but not a reason to stay home. I speak with some authority as I grew up in northern Ohio. Exception would be an individuals health.


Driverless cars will bring em back. All you have to do is make it to the car.


Pass on the driverless cars.


Here is what I think are the reasons.

  1. TV: The most obvious culprit. Especially with the emergence of conference networks. Almost every game is now televised. So every game has to fit into a tv time slot. For example, A&M vs Prairie View was televised on the SECN. It was a mid-afternoon kickoff if I remember correctly. 10 years ago that game would not have been televised and would have started later in the day after people had tailgated and when the temperature had fallen some.
  2. Ticket prices: They haven’t really fallen because most athletic departments, even those in the P5, run a deficit every year and need whatever revenue they can get their hands on to keep up in the arms race. So if you are a family of four, are you going to spend a couple hundred on tickets for an 11am or 3pm kickoff time? Probably not.

(J V ) #18

But it is not only TV. As someone stated we have had Televised games since the 50s. It is now the quality of the broadcast in HD and being able to stream that quality online. The next step will be broadcasting game in 4K. It is coming. So when you mix in a better TV product, rising ticket prices, inflated costs of concessions, a poor game day experience and a poor start time you will see consumers second guess their choice. Notice I didn’t even mention opponent because that plays a role too.

We are just scratching the surface with virtual reality and sports. I think this will be a major revenue stream for schools in the future. Imagine having the stadium experience via a headset? Sure, it sounds dumb to most here but the next generation of fans will embrace it. You will feel like you are there with people all around you but in the comfort of your home. Imagine future CP virtual donation levels. One where you get to be on the side line with the team and see and feel the game from that perspective. To run out on the field with the team or be in the locker room. How much would you have paid to be on the sidelines of the Peach bowl? I think schools will have to prepare for smaller actual crowds but open to the idea of new revenue streams as technology advances.

(Butch) #19

There is no doubt in my mind that television has had the biggest impact on attendance in football and basketball at most college campuses.
Why would any average fan with no ties to a certain University, want to fight the traffic and pay big money to get into a game when that person can just about sit home and watch any game in either sport from home?
I have never, ever attended a game UH is playing and worried about the concessions or what is going on outside before the game. I went to support UH and watch the Cougars.
Folks like ESPN are ruining sports as we know it. Rescheduling games for Thursday or Friday night, or on Saturday morning, is now a way of life…and you will never convince me that helps draw fans in any fashion.
Everyone seemed to be puzzled at why UH basketball could not draw at TSU, but the bottom line is that we had been down so long and the fact that just about every game was broadcast, and there you have the problem.
Maybe a new stadium and a great run to the NCAA tourney, not to mention a win and then a near miss against Michigan, will help…but eventually if we are not winning big and games remain easy to view on television, we will continue to struggle at the gate no matter where we play…


I like to go to the games with friends. Call me old-fashioned. I don’t want to be on the sidelines via VR. TV is great for away games. Whether or not somebody will sink a lot of money into any emerging revenue/technology model will not dissuade many fans from wanting to be in the stadium for their team. I don’t care about watching a game on a phone or tablet except as a last resort. Anyone who is a real fan of their team (college or pro) and has the financial means to go to games will continue to do so.