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October 8, 2013

Game attendance drops as college football fans shun a bad deal

(Continued)

Which sounds like the better deal?

Now some college administrators might try to counter the argument by pointing out overall attendance continues to set records and teams are bringing in more money than ever. Also, some early-season games are scheduled against over-matched opponents so there’s no pent up demand to buy tickets, especially if a more-enticing home game is in the offing.

There are some who may see this as just a matter of overexposure during a period where people are making cautionary spending decisions. But here is something to fear. There is a disturbing trend among students to skip games. The Wall Street Journal reported that student attendance “is an illness” that has been spreading for years. Over the past four seasons, students at the University of Georgia left empty 39 percent of the seats in their designated section at Sanford Stadium.

Alabama, which has won three of the past four national championships, has experienced the same problem. Almost a third of the student-designated seats at Bryant-Denny Stadium remained empty at times.

This doesn’t mean the students are losing interest in football. What it does suggest is that there are sometimes better places to watch the game – such as campus bars or fraternity houses where the beer and the good times flow freely.

The concern has reached the point that the SEC has hired a consulting firm to look into the matter. The league wants to know what it can do to improve the game-experience for its fans, especially the younger ones who the conference counts on becoming the season ticket holders of tomorrow. 

In another case, it’s a generational matter. Students don’t want to give up their technological gadgets. Asking them to surrender use of their cell phones for four quarters is a non-starter.  Adequate Wi-Fi capability isn’t available in many stadiums and upgrades needed to serve upwards of 100,000 fans is an expensive proposition.  Industry experts told The Journal the cost would range somewhere between $2 million to $10 million per stadium.

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