College football attendance drops, TV viewership mixed

Regular-season attendance at college football’s highest level dipped to 45,274 fans per game in 2012, the lowest average since 2003.  Closer to home, the average crowd in the ACC was 49,544 – down 11% since 2004 (when Miami & VPI joined the conference).  NC State’s average attendance at Carter-Finley Stadium was 54,106, down 4% from 2011.  The Wolfpack ranked 37th nationally in average attendance.

Some of this can no doubt be blamed on the usual suspects.  The economy is still in the doldrums for many.  Some programs in decline inevitably suffer attendance losses.  But the malaise is widespread enough that it should be a warning signal to the people in charge that something is amiss.”

On the television side of the equation (here) CBS and ABC’s coverage of football dropped to multi year lows while Notre Dame’s success boosted NBC to six-hear highs.

Perhaps competition from FOX and a resurgent NBC were to blame, but ABC and CBS both hit multi-year lows for college football coverage this season.

The “SEC on CBS” was the highest rated college football series during the 2010-11 season, averaging a 3.9 rating. While that may sound good in a press release, the 3.9 average marks a 7% decline from both last year (4.2) and 2010 (4.2), and ranks as the lowest for the SEC on CBS since 2008 (3.4).

CBS topped second-place ABC, which averaged a 3.2 rating for regular season games — down 9% from last year (3.5) and 2010 (3.5). The 3.2 average is the lowest for college football on the network since at least 2006.

Over on NBC, Notre Dame games averaged a 2.8 rating, up 67% from last year (1.7), and up 33% from 2010 (2.1). The 2.8 is the highest for Notre Dame coverage on the network since 2006 (3.0).

NBC was technically not the top Notre Dame broadcaster during the season. Four Notre Dame telecasts on ABC averaged a 5.3 rating, topping NBC’s average by 89%. ABC also doubled NBC in viewership (8.8M to 4.4M).

Average college football ratings on FOX, ESPN and ESPN2 were not available.

If you REALLY want to dive deep into the numbers then you can click here to see the television rating for every college football game of the season.  ACC match-ups do not seem to be very popular.

The following are all quoted from this link

  • Regular-season attendance at college football’s highest level dipped to 45,274 fans per game in 2012, the lowest average since 2003.
  • Football Bowl Subdivision crowds declined for the second straight season, according to an analysis by of NCAA attendance figures for 2012 and past years. Five of the six Bowl Championship Series conferences experienced lower averages in 2012.
  • As higher ticket costs continue to price out average spectators, many fans can watch more comfortably and cheaply from home on their HDTV.
  • College football still drew 35.3 million fans into stadiums and remains one of America’s most popular sports. But the average regular-season attendance has decreased 3 percent since peaking at 46,739 in 2008.
  • The sport averaged greater than 46,000 fans every regular season between 2007 and 2010. Attendance fell under 46,000 for the second straight year.
  • Fifty-six percent of the FBS schools reported fewer fans in 2012 than the previous season. Some of those dips were very minor, but others saw huge chunks of fans disappear.
  • Eight BCS schools experienced attendance declines of 10 percent or greater from 2011: Kentucky (17 percent); Maryland (15 percent); Stanford (13 percent); and Cincinnati, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Colorado (10 percent each).
  • Five of the nation’s top 20 attendance leaders experienced noticeable declines, led by 5-percent drops at Penn State and Tennessee. Penn State faced the aftermath of a child-molestation scandal that resulted in a postseason ban. Tennessee had its fourth losing season in the past five years.
  • The ACC’s average crowd of 49,544 was its smallest in 12 years and down 11 percent since 2004, the first year Miami and Virginia Tech played in the conference

For a deeper look at these numbers you can click here to a great blog entry from “Get the Picture”.

I thought “Pack Mentality” made an interesting point on our message forums:

No team that was actually a good exciting team had a significant decrease except FL at 2%, and that could very well be due to pricing, in which case the added price may make up for a 2% decrease since they still averaged 87,000 fans. Alabama with a “minor decrease” is still at 101,000 per game. I think the take away from this is that fans want to see a quality product if they are going to spend all that time and money. I don’t know that there are less fans wanting to go to the games as much as there were fewer teams in which the fans felt real excitement over the team and the overall direction they were headed.

Penn State and Tennessee were the top examples of large attendance with significant decreases. Well, I think PSU fans could possibly have a reason not to be as excited as in the past and Tennessee has had multiple losing seasons in a row.


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College Football

24 Responses to College football attendance drops, TV viewership mixed

  1. surfingwolf 12/11/2012 at 10:28 AM #

    I think some of the attendance drop is related to fans that just don’t “believe” anymore. The more I understand how “rigged” these games are, the less I care about them. Take last year’s Carl Hess situation… the deck is stacked. My internal sense of fairness leads me to decline to participate in that system. My love of NC State keeps me coming back, but everyone has a breaking point, and I think people are reaching it.

    Furthermore, I think there may be a trend in place away from the violence represented by football. I wonder what the numbers for the NFL say… compare that to other sports… is NBA still down? NCAA basketball?

    Perhaps we’re headed toward a revised system. I think we need NCAA 2.0… reboot the system (boot everyone out of there!) and get something fair in place. I think conference realignment and scandals will drive this trend.

  2. MP 12/11/2012 at 11:53 AM #

    College Football is likely just another bubble blowing up to burst. Look at Maryland – And imagine that on a large scale.

  3. Texpack 12/11/2012 at 12:02 PM #

    The longer the employment situation remains depressed, the more people trim discretionary items from their budgets. A lot of people toughed it out through “08 and ’09 trying to keep from losing their place in line but by 2012 lots of people simply have had to punt.

  4. Astral Rain 12/11/2012 at 12:30 PM #

    The economy’s been recovering- and the folks who watch college sports tend to be alumni, who aren’t as bad off.

    I don’t think that’s an issue.

    I do think football is going to decline slowly into a Southern regional sport- due to the megaconference expansion leading to a 64-team solution that is biased against the Northeast, and the violence issue, and that it may end up getting politicized due to identity politics

    Question is what replaces football and hockey (if hockey loses this season I think it’s near-fatal for them, you can survive 1 lost season, but not 2) My guess is soccer , especially if MLS moves its schedule more into line with Europe.

  5. coach13 12/11/2012 at 1:45 PM #

    Maybe it is the product. It’s bad enough all we can muster is 7 wins, but its 7 wins in a shitty conference. IMO FSU was the only interesting game at CF this year. TOB was losing fan interest… that’s my best answer locally. Maybe DD will pack the house next year. I contemplated going to a game this year but no game seemed worth the hassle after falling on our faces early.

  6. tmb81 12/11/2012 at 2:02 PM #

    From an NC State perspective it was scheduling that mostly resulted in lower attendance:

    1) UNC and Clemson, big home draws, were played on the road.

    2) The Tennessee game, at a neutral site on opening weekend, took away a sellout regardless of opponent.

    3) We still had two minor games in Sept but because of the Tennessee game, we lost the opportunity to play a strong opponent or ECU that would have goosed attendance as a third home game in Sept.

    4) The lackluster ending to the season against our least attractive divisional opponent hurt as well.

  7. 61Packer 12/11/2012 at 2:45 PM #

    No NCSU games vs Duke during a period when we play South Alabama and Central Michigan 3 times hurts attendance, especially in Durham. It also defies logic.

    And with continuing conference expansion bringing in more out-of-region teams, the likelihood of more fan apathy increases.

    More teams per conference will insure less rival games, even in OOC games. Already, the historic Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry is scheduled to be shelved.

    It’s only a matter of time before NCSU and UNC will not be permitted to meet on the gridiron each season. Pitt will now need a primary playing partner with Maryland leaving. Of course it should be NCSU-Syracuse and UNC-Pitt, rivalries just waiting to happen.

  8. 61Packer 12/11/2012 at 2:46 PM #

    And @Astral Rain, if you think the economy’s been recovering, then you’ll LOVE more ACC expansion!

  9. Pack84 12/11/2012 at 5:12 PM #

    I speak only for myself here. I certainly haven’t done any studies and offer zero proof of my theory.

    But my daughter and I went to the basketball game at Reynolds Saturday. I live roughly an hour away from Reynolds. Total time from the time I left my house until I returned was maybe 3 1/2 or 3 3/4 hours. I even remarked to my wife that it was nice to be able to go to a game and not have it eat up your entire Saturday.

    Football is different. Depending on game time either your entire day or most of your day and your entire Saturday night is eaten up by the game. And the tailgating part is fine, but the damn games themselves just take too long to play.

    Yes – unfortunately I know full well WHY that is. And I know everyone needs TV to pay the bills.

    But our average game time this year was OVER 3 1/2 hours -3:31:10 to be exact.

    So again – maybe it’s just me. But maybe the game is getting so long people are only going to go to games they deeply care about.

    Once again – speaking only for myself – let’s say that State had an open date on a particular Saturday. And on that day Duke was hosting, for example, VaTech. And somebody was giving me free tickets and a free parking pass to that game. Would I go? I highly doubt it. I just don’t care enough to spend that much of my Saturday at the game. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be those two teams. Same thing would apply if it was the holes hosting Clemson or FSU.

    My long-winded (and not exactly to the) point is that the economy still sucks and just maybe people just aren’t willing to commit the time and money for some activity unless they’re passionate about it.

    And yes – I’ll still go to State games, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still think they’re too damn long. LOL

  10. Gene 12/11/2012 at 5:43 PM #

    Maybe a side effect of conference expansion.

    I used to get excited about Oklahoma-Nebraska games in the 1980’s. Even when those programs took a dip, there was still some emotional energy in that rivalry.


    I don’t have the same interest in a Nebraska-Purdue game, as a casual fan or even a Nebraska-Ohio State/Michigan game.

    To me it’s just another B1G game and not something I need to get excited about as a sports fan.

    I think the same thing applies to other conferences and will only get exasperated as conference realignment continues.

  11. whitefang 12/11/2012 at 6:31 PM #

    Economy is recovering and soccer will replace football – Huh? Well pot IS legal in some states now…
    Economy is a huge factor. Average family income down $5 grand in the last 4 years, costs of fuel and food up. More games on TV. The math ain’t that hard.
    We gave up college season tickets this year (not State but UVA where kids went). It was between keeping Panthers or college. Couldn’t keep doing both. Purely economics. Never thought about those soccer season tics

  12. Virginia Wolf 12/11/2012 at 7:23 PM #

    It’s a combination of all these factors but for me, it’s simple. The economy has not been a factor for me. However; the cost of attending a game has gotten out of hand. I live near Wilmington and if we take our family (me, wife and two children), I spent $500.00 a trip/game, and to see a Citadel, South Alabama, Presbyterian, Central Michigan, La. Tech, Liberty? It’s not going to happen. I’ve given up my season tickets for this reason. I still try to attend a few games when I can but the cost is too high and the opponents are unimpressive for me to buy season tickets. I’m still a member of the WPC but I won’t be buying season tickets until we see a change. Go Wolfpack!!!

  13. tjfoose1 12/11/2012 at 8:05 PM #

    “The economy’s been recovering”


  14. choppack1 12/11/2012 at 8:21 PM #

    I don’t think the economy has recovered well enough for colleges to add NEW season ticket holders faster than they were losing them.

    I also think one of the key items that is overlooked is the expansion to 12 games. It’s hard to make 7-8 home games in a season. It’s further unlikely to help attendance since the add-on game hasn’t been used to set up a prime match-up in most cases. If the NFL added an exhibition game to its schedule would its AVERAGE attendance go up or down…I’d wager it would go down.

    College football is going through a major change right now – and truthfully, the college athletic programs at most big time universities are totally reliant on it as a cash chow. If college football goes down the toilet, you’ll see college scholarships for athletics go down as well.

    But we’re pretty far away from that. I don’t think the playoffs will help the regular season numbers much – hell, hardly anyone watches regular season basketball anymore – in person or at the game itself.

  15. oceanman 12/11/2012 at 8:32 PM #

    There is little I loved more than going to State football games. But that has changed. I also speak only for myself and for other agreeing fans who sat near me at Carter Finley at the three games I attended this year. I am very interested in the opinion of others on this. The game atmosphere has become a joke and, I hate to say it, offensive to me. The only thing missing compared to going to AA minor league baseball games are clowns and radio controlled cars racing around the base lines. The atmosphere is a constant commercial attack on your senses from all the silly commercial games and introductions and other BS that goes on on the field during TV timeouts to the electronic ribbon boards around the bottom of the upper deck. One lady said that she was glad she was not epileptic because the constant flashing of the sign would cause her to have a seizure. The students love the booming rap music but there is no break. The football game is almost an afterthought. You thank god when play resumes so your senses can get a rest before the next timeout. Am I just getting old or are others experiences similar. I live 3 hours from Raleigh and, in its present form, it is not worth the price of season tickets to sit through the sensual barrage 6 to 8 times a year. I can watch on TV and miss the headaches. Right now I have to go take a Bobby Murry Chevrolet nap.

  16. WolfInVolCountry 12/11/2012 at 10:06 PM #

    Don’t underestimate the effect of technology (as alluded to in the article). The quality and convenience of HD technology will continue to eat into attendance as ticket prices escalate. This is even in evidence at tailgating parties where people bring their satellite rigs and watch the game while getting peripheral game day experience.

    When you can get up and go the fridge for a beer, make a sandwich and take a leak… and not miss a snap on your 55 inch Samsung… well it beats getting beer sloshed on you and waiting an hour to get out of the lot. Granted, this is somewhat antisocial, but 1080p is pretty sweet.

    Don’t get me wrong… I like a live game. I went to the UT game and plan on going to the Music City Bowl, but these are special outings where the game is just part of an overall mini-vacation.

    Most normally, my arse is on the couch, with a suds in my hand yelling “Carolina sucks!” when the Pack is on the tube.

    (I yell “Carolina sucks!” no matter who we are playing… it is a given.)

  17. 61Packer 12/11/2012 at 10:50 PM #

    I agree with oceanman about the scoreboard, which as far as I’m concerned is a negative rather than a positive. Having high-volume music makes it hard to talk to anyone during timeouts and is headache-inducing. As for the rap/hip hop, that classless shit (and that’s what it is) would be nil heard if I were in charge. You won’t hear that crap in Michigan Stadium; you’ll instead hear the UM band play Hail To The Victors.

    The long games are also a pain, especially the ones on the ACC Network. Unlike the ESPN games which need to move along so the next game can be seen in full by the ESPN audience, the ACC Network games are dragged out to the max because there’s nothing pressing to watch afterward. Plus, the ACCN games are usually the most dreadful league games that day, making them that much worse to endure. A great tailgate offsets a bad game, but not a bad season of games that last way too long.

    In short, the NCAA needs to find a way to keep football games, especially the less interesting ones, in the range of 3 hours.

    Yeah, right.

  18. Master 12/11/2012 at 11:16 PM #

    The economy sucks and anyone who says otherwise is deaf, dumb and blind. That being the case, nobody is going to waste money on a marginal product.

    And another thing. As along as the SEC continues to make every other conference look like high school, the other leagues will continue to falter. ESPN’s money perpetuates the unlevel playing field. Its the same thing as what has been happening in the ACC with all the focus on UNC and Duke.

  19. PackerInRussia 12/12/2012 at 2:39 AM #

    So, conference expansion is driven by TV revenue, but the trend is a decline in TV viewers. I understand that you still get paid when people don’t watch (if it’s based on number of subscribers; not number of viewers). And attendance is down. But, schools are making moves in order to get paid more. It seems like something is being held up artificially: decline in viewers + decline in attendance shouldn’t equal increased revenue in the real world. Sounds like a government program. In the real world, though, those things tend to crash down eventually. In the real world, nothing is too big to fail and schools better be careful not to dilute the product for short-term gains no matter how big those gains are or they’ll answer for it later on. If people lose interest and quit watching, those big TV deals won’t be there in the future.

    By the way, if soccer replaces football (yes, I realize the semantic similarity), I’ll renounce my citizenship 🙂

    P.S. To Astral Rain’s point, technically the economy is recovering; it’s the slow rate of recovery that’s the problem.

  20. JohnGalt78 12/12/2012 at 6:33 AM #

    I hear printing food stamps is a thriving business right now.

  21. choppack1 12/12/2012 at 6:35 AM #

    To say that the economy is recovered is pure idiocy. The economy is certainly a factor.

    While I don’t think HDTV is a huge factor, I think the more likely culprit is more games on TV. This is a dual-edged sword – not only is your team more likely to be on TV these days (or at least available through ESPN3) – but there are more games on now…So, when you go to a game – you miss out on several good ones.

    Still, I don’t think the attendance factor is necessarily permanent, provided college football does what it can to get the FAN to the game. This means less commercials and more affordable season ticket packages.

    Since apparently the majority of America wants 8% unemployment, I don’t really see the economy getting much better…so maybe soccer is a good choice for us since evidently we want the unemployment rate and overall laziness of Europe.

  22. JohnGalt78 12/12/2012 at 7:15 AM #

    So back to the food stamp thing…..let’s say we first label anyone who rides an elevator at Carter-Finley “evil”. …and as such, we must of course punish them with a tax. Each time they ride the elevator, they must purchase 10 extra game tickets. Those tickets will be immediately distributed to scalpers in the parking lot who are only allowed to barter in food stamps. Bartering with food stamps will take place in the RV lot where “double evil” RV owners have each delivered (and fed) their required allotment of food stamp recipients…..such number to be determined by their WolfPack Club number but no less than 40 per RV. Of course there need be no paper transaction here what with all non-evils conducting business on their OPhones and OPads and such. Just scan ’em like they do at Starbucks and in to the game they go….filling the stands!!! That sounds like a fair system, huh?

  23. PackerInRussia 12/12/2012 at 12:53 PM #

    I think we’ve gotten off track here. But, to clarify, perhaps recovering isn’t the correct word to use (certainly not “recovered,” but I don’t think anyone said that). There IS growth, but unless you aspire to be a midget (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it’s not going to get you very far in a hurry.

  24. john of sparta 12/13/2012 at 5:31 PM #

    3 reasons:
    1. demographics: female and foreign.
    the percentage *increase* of female and foreign
    students admitted hit double digits in 1998.
    reaping the alumni that’s sown.
    2. HDTV. almost better than being there.
    3. All games all the time available somewhere.

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