I originally saw this tweeted by Stewart Mandel (@slmandel). To the chagrin of local radio personalities, State — vs. Louisiana Tech on Labor Day Saturday, at noon, with a heat index in mid-90s — isn’t the only program with attendance concerns.
Interesting read about the SEC’s concern in the recent trend showing declining student attendance at football games. The concern, naturally, is that today’s students are future season ticket buyers.
Declining student attendance is an illness that has been spreading for years nationwide. But now it has hit the Southeastern Conference, home to college football’s best teams and supposedly its most fervent fans, giving athletics officials reason to fret about future ticket sales and fundraising.
As it turns out, Georgia students left empty 39% of their designated sections of Sanford Stadium over the last four seasons, according to school records of student-ticket scans. Despite their allocation of about 18,000 seats, the number of students at games between 2009 and 2012 never exceeded 15,000.
Winning isn’t even necessarily a solution. The average student crowd to see last year’s Georgia teamâ€”which finished the season ranked No. 5â€”was almost 6,000 short of maximum capacity. Even at Alabama, 32% of student seats went unused by students between 2009 and 2012, when the Crimson Tide won three national championships. Alabama coach Nick Saban wrote a flattering letter last week in the student paper to recruit students back.
Georgia officials have been so concerned by student attendance that they reassigned 2,000 seats previously reserved for students to young alumni before this season. “It was a significant hole, and it was very noticeable,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. “It was way too obvious.”
To study this shift in behavior, the SEC recently hired Now What, a New York market-research firm that will spend this season traveling to SEC stadiums, visiting fans watching at home to gather their opinions before presenting its findings after the regular season.
“We can’t afford to lose a generation,” said Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin, a member of the SEC’s committee on the game-day experience.
Those students were far enough from the stadium to use their smartphonesâ€”which, they gripe, is virtually impossible inside. As the service is right now, many stadiums are such dead zones that “you can’t text, Instagram or tweet,” said Georgia senior Kim Baltenberger.
Most schools are considering new stadium Wi-Fi networks that would cost anywhere between $2 million and $10 million, industry experts say. The need for this technology is greater in college than in the NFL, said Enterasys Networks chief executive Chris Crowell, whose company outfitted the New England Patriots’ and Philadelphia Eagles’ stadiums. The upload traffic at crowded events doubles that of downloads, he said, and the activity ratio is further skewed by younger crowds: Gillette Stadium’s Wi-Fi network, installed in 2012, whizzed with its most upload data during a Taylor Swift concert this summer.
Non-conference scheduling is terrible; there is so little incentive for top tier teams to play mid-tier teams on the road, so it’s trending even worse. And it’s nice to be home on some Saturdays and flip, quite literally, between a half-dozen games at any given time. In fact, an argument can be made that college football is far better off with smaller stadiums (few fans at home probably mean better TV ratings, which is where all of the revenue is generated).
And yes, my iPhone 5 turns into nothing more than a heavy pocket watch/camera combo in the Trinity Lot about three hours before game time — no texts in or out, no Twitter, no Yahoo! Sports app — so, sure, I wouldn’t mind wi-fi access at Carter-Finley. But, as a soon-to-be-mid-30s-something who’d never been online before my freshman year and bought my first cellphone as a graduation present to myself, and most shockingly, still doesn’t have the Facebook, I admittedly don’t understand today’s high-maintenance college kids who are so incessantly reliant on social media that they won’t go to a football game because they can’t tweet Instagrams.
We didn’t have cellphones in college and we still (somehow) found our friends and still (somehow) had fun at games. Am I right Cow Dog?