Thoughts on College Football's Attendance Problem

This may or may not come as a shocker to all of you, but college football has a bit of an attendance problem. A lot of it is self-inflicted by the schools themselves, but some of blame is to be shared with the fans. This one included. The problem: technology has outpaced the “in-stadium experience.” I use the quotes because that’s what all the smart and overpaid team and league people say when asked about attendance. I do my best to attend one or two college football games per year, and I’ll be honest with you: I’d attend more games if it weren’t so damned expensive. I actually have no excuses to not attend football games. I live in Northeast Ohio and have at least 10 Division I-A schools within a six-hour drive. Why don’t I go? Easy, the games and everything involved are expensive, but that isn’t the main reason. It’s because the times I want to go to games the teams I like to watch aren’t playing solid opponents.

If you’ve never been to a college football game tickets average about $50 per seat, and that’s before you pay for parking, food, non-alcoholic drinks, concessions (you will buy something), and deal with out of control drunk students, alumni, and fans who wish they were alumni.

All in all you’re looking at about a $300 day. I say day, because I’m going to make the stupid assumption you’ll arrive at said game that day and leave to go home right after without trying to locate a hotel.

Note: If you’re looking for a hotel for a game in September and don’t have one already, be prepared to break out your American Express. Yes, I know it’s only May, but you get the hint.

I don’t have the solutions to these problems, but I have a few suggestions, none of which involve going to a nine-game conference schedule.

Reduce the amount of games against cupcakes. This applies to all the big name schools. I have no interest in paying full price to see Ohio State play Akron, Tennessee play Memphis or Texas play UT-San Antonio.

If you’re going to play cupcake schools reduce ticket pricing. I know it is sacrilege to offer a discount in collegiate athletics, but come on, you want me to pay the same price to see Ohio State versus Wisconsin as I would Ohio State verses the Eastern Carolina Catamanooks? Not happening.

Reduce the amount of student tickets and give those tickets to young alumni contribution free. Yes, I said take tickets away from students. Why, because at most schools students don’t use their entire allotment anyway, and unless all you want are old super rich white guys at your games you better find a way for your young alumni to get tickets. Instead of spending millions on stadium expansions sell the tickets you have first.

Improve the in-game experience. I’m not a great fan of having Wi-Fi at stadiums, but if that’s what it takes to get people to games, then install it and do it right. This weekend I was at the Indianapolis 500 along with about 300,000 other people, without Wi-Fi, and had excellent 5-bar LTE coverage the entire time. So if the wireless carriers can get it right in the Circle City they certainly can figure it out in Tuscaloosa, Knoxville, Columbus, and Berkley.

Put replays, stats, and scores on an app and give access to those who are inside the stadium. It’s a waste of time, but if helps sell those last $10,000 seats then it could be worth the $3 million you’ll spend on the infrastructure.

I know nothing I’ve said before is news, but unless you want people to stay home and watch on their 60” plasma’s instead of coming to stadiums this is sound advice all collegiate athletic directors and conference commissioners should take into account.