In 2018, the Mountain West and Conference USA had their lowest average attendance in conference history, according to CBS. But even the Big Ten was at its lowest since 1993 and the SEC was at its lowest since 2003. (The AAC, ACC and MAC had the only increases in 2018, all up less than 1 percent).
“The numbers are pretty clear. It’s declined, consistently, over time,” Turner said. “TV has had a lot to do with that, the internet. Fan interest in college football is still enormous, but what’s the prognosis moving forward? You’ve got to be concerned and watchful.”
For Group of 5 programs that don’t have successful histories or large fan bases, the challenge is even tougher. For schools fighting with the 15,000 requirement, the only thing that can solve the problem on a large scale is a lot of winning. But even that isn’t enough for some programs.
Those places will continue to tweak things to make games more appealing, but they’ll also continue to work the numbers gymnastics to meet a rule they believe is out of date and perhaps directing attention of athletic departments to the wrong places.
“Having requirements for the sake of having requirements, the minimums become maximums,” Frazier said. “ As soon as you have minimums, people say that’s all they’re going to do. When you have those things, it becomes a blind check off. See how we can get around it, versus doing it for the right reasons.”