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College football experiences largest attendance drop in 34 years

Pittsburgh v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

CBS Sports is reporting that major college football experienced it’s largest drop in attendance in 34 years.

The sport saw a drop of close to 1,500 people per game from 2016. This isn’t an anomaly either. Attendance has declined for the past four consecutive years - a trend that is the first of its kind historically.

Taking it even further, FBS attendance has slipped over 10% since it’s all time high in 2008.


Not so fast my friend. (Timely, topical).

The SEC continues to lead the country in overall attendance with an average of just over 75,000 people per game, but that average is the lowest it’s been since 2005. The 2017 SEC average is also down nearly 2,500 people from the 2016 mark.

So what’s going on here?

This isn’t some complicated riddle. As consumers, we have never had so many entertainment options and distractions competing for our attention. Is there anyone you know who isn’t at least mildly addicted to their cell phone?

The truth is, it is possible to be an informed, passionate fan of college football without ever stepping foot inside of a stadium.

I’ve had the privilege of going to games at many of college football’s finest venues - Kyle Field, Notre Dame Stadium, the Coliseum, the Rose Bowl, Folsom Field, Tiger Stadium, Clemson, Ole Miss, the Big House, and so on. For my money, there is still no sport better live than college football on a fall Saturday. There is something just so goddamn magical about the in-game experience on a college campus that technology will never be able to fully capture.

That typed - and I’m speaking only for myself here - my desire to go to games has waned over the last handful of years.

Here are my basic reasons:

  • It’s a full day production to go to a game. The games are LONG now. Tack on parking, walking, tailgating (awesome), and drive time and that’s an entire Saturday - if not a whole weekend.
  • I can watch every single A&M, Notre Dame, and virtually any other game in pristine HD on a $499, 60 inch flat screen - ENSCONCED in air conditioning replete with my own latrine and foodstuffs. I mention this because I’m old enough to remember when there were MULTIPLE games per year A&M wouldn’t be on TV. You had to get your ass to the stadium. Now? Maybe I’m a bad fan, but I’m not hauling my ass up from Houston in September when it’s hotter than butthole to watch A&M vs. Prairie View when I can flip it on the SEC Network.

The viewing experience at home has just become too good. I can spend an entire Saturday by myself (ideal) flipping between all the games, dicking off on Twitter, and not having to spend $1000 per game weekend.

What’s somewhat jarring in the article is what is going on with students. Many traditional powers are having a difficult time selling all of their ticket allotment to their students. Time was, one of the biggest factors of the quintessential college experience was the big time football. I’m kinda embarrassed how much a game at Kyle Field swayed me toward going to A&M.

Same deal while I was in grad school at Notre Dame. There was zero question over IF I’d be at a game. The entire year’s calendar was essentially scheduled around those six or seven fall Saturdays.

So why the apathy from the current crop of students (not A&M specifically - nationwide)? Too many distractions?

And don’t think A&M isn’t susceptible to these trends. I have spoken with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick about this topic. It has had his keen attention for years. Notre Dame has sold out every home game since 1974, and Swarbrick is well aware of the shifting trends of consumers. Simply put, Swarbrick is not taking strong football attendance for granted.

A&M has ridden the lucrative wave and buzz of Johnny, the SEC, a brand new stadium, and now some Jimbo hype. What’s Kyle Field going to look like when a lot of that one-time buzz is faded and the team is sitting at 5-5?

How have your behaviors about going to games shifted over the last 5-10 years?


How many Texas A&M home football games are you planning on going to in 2018?

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