The Solution For Fixing College Football Attendance

...and it's pretty simple

July 02, 2019 - 8:30 am

No amount of Wi-Fi, special-made stadium cups, or chachkies at the gate will bring fans back to college football games.

In 2017 college football saw its largest year-to-year attendance drop in 34 years. On average, among the 129 FBS teams attendance was down 1,409 fans per game. 2017 also marked the first time average attendance has declined for four straight seasons. What has been universities and athletic directors’ response? Amenities. It’s no secret that with the saturation of 50+ inch high definition TVs, surround sound, instant replay, and multiple steamtable viewing angles the in-home experience is the best it’s ever been, but to us old-school fans who grew up in the era when you went to games…it’s just not the same. How can it be? You don’t get the sights, the smells, and the body-shaking heart-pounding rumble of a game-winning touchdown. But to fans…nay, consumers who have increasingly limited disposable income, attending games in person - no matter how badly we want to - is becoming financially unfeasible. Comparably, we’ve seen NASCAR price its core demographic out and they’re demolishing grandstands that were just built during the sports zenith 25 years ago.

So how does college football convince those fans to get off their couch and return to the stadium? After all, a physical connection with your alma-mater should correlate to increased athletic and academic donations, right? One common solution is to elevate the in-stadium experience. Make it nicer. Make it a premium experience. We live in a digital age where everything is postable, snappable, and tweetable. The median age of a college football stadium is 54 years old and most are laughably lacking in digital infrastructure geared for fans. Sure, being able to connect to your favorite social media app is important, but I’m is still not convinced that the answer to losing 1,409 fans per year is increasing Wi-Fi connectivity. Nor for that matter is it building opulent new entrances, field houses, or loge boxes. Those things are for the super-rich, the 1% in your fan base who are looking to donate large sums of money, and I’m fine with them. Those things help pay the bills. Nor is the answer having big screens in the bathrooms so fans don’t miss a snap. It’s also not having app-based concessions ordering and delivery…though those things do sound pretty sweet, right?

The answer is simple and it’s staring athletics officials in the face. It’s just too expensive. Consider an alum in his (or her) mid 30s. Probably lives 50-150 miles from campus. Wife, 2.5 kids, dog, and a big SUV to ferry them all around. Now imagine boarding your dog for the day ($25), gassing up that behemoth ($50), packing food and beverages into a cooler ($50), securing parking ($20), THEN paying $30-50 per ticket. A single family trip to a home game is now $265. Rinse and repeat 6 times a season and that’s north of $1,500. Oh, and for good measure the athletic department now has your phone number and they’re hounding you every spring for donations. Now do you see why 1,409 people stopped going to every game? I do.

The solution is not making college football more premium, it’s making it more affordable.

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