News and Tribune

Z_CNHI News Service

October 8, 2013

Game attendance drops as college football fans shun a bad deal

Let me count the ways college football is seeing a continued decline in attracting fans to stadiums: Overpriced tickets, uncertain starting times, traffic jams, overpriced hotel rooms, some night games ending around midnight, overpriced (again) concessions, long television delays for commercials, terrible opponents, long reviews of disputed plays, parking lot problems, drunks, mid-week games and last but not least -- a lousy team.

It wasn’t always this way, but colleges sold their souls to TV networks and the marriage with big business left fans to deal with many inconveniences and price gouging. 

Here’s a number that should alarm most athletic directors. As reported in The Birmingham News, through the first five weeks of the 2013 season, attendance at Football Bowl Subdivision games is down 3 percent compared to this time last year. Worse yet, game attendance is off almost 6 percent from the same period in 2011.

News reporter Jon Solomon’s analysis showed average attendance this season is 45,596, down from 47,181 in 2012 and 48,279 in 2011.

Now this is startling: Half of the teams in the vaunted Southeastern Conference have shown dips in crowd size, modest as they may be. The issue isn’t regional as attendance is dropping across the country. So far this season six schools have seen attendance drop by 4 percent or more -- Penn State, Southern California, Michigan State, Iowa, Arkansas and Virginia Tech.

Here’s part of the problem: Games are expensive to attend. Depending on where you go, single game tickets go for $50 each (much more if you go through a broker), parking is another $20 and food and souvenirs, if you take the kids, can break the bank. On the other hand, if you stay home and watch it on a high-definition TV, you get none of the hassles, have a better, sharper view of the game, and can use commercial breaks to run to the kitchen for snacks that aren’t outrageously priced.

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