College football has an attendance problem.
Yes, the SEC led the country for the 15th consecutive season with an average attendance of 75,538 fans per game, but across the board, attendance has been down for the last several years. In fact, nine of the 14 SEC schools saw attendance drop last season.
The TV experience is becoming better and better. The pictures are clearer, and the ability have all your friends over for burgers and beers on game day is attractive. And you don’t have to pay the ever-increasing price of admission or fight the traffic getting to games.
While technology continues to evolve, the conference and its athletic directors are thinking of ways to make the experience of attending games better for the fans.
CBS Sports’ Tony Barnhart had an interesting article on how the SEC plans to combat the attendance problem. The SEC has created a working group to spearhead in helping create some solutions.
Attendance will be discussed in the SEC spring meetings this week, along with a slew of other topics for the near and long-term future:
Better WiFi: Phone service in stadiums is shoddy at best. So, SEC programs are looking into investing at least $2 million per stadium to get the WiFi problem fixed. UT AD Dave Hart on the problem stadiums are faced with: “Our next generation of fans is used to staying connected. They should be able to communicate in real time with somebody on the other side of the stadium. It’s quite an investment but we have to make it.” This could help bring more and more students to games.
Replay: Fans at home see multiple shots and angles of every play under review by the officials. Fans in stadiums saw none of that last year in an effort to protect the officials from what could be a brutal home crowd. But that rule has now been changed.
Student Attendance: SEC programs have begun to offer less student tickets because students just haven’t showed up in recent years. So, programs are getting savvy and offering lower season ticket prices to new graduates of the university.
Better games: Yes, it all comes back to the eight- or nine-game schedule. With eight games, SEC programs play four non-conference games. Usually only one legit non-conference game out of four is worth going to, and if the SEC could pick up a ninth conference game, it would help put more butts in seats, rather than fans staying home because they don’t want to see their team club baby seals 51-7. Why not stay home and watch other premier games around the conference? You get the picture.
The only real difference-maker is the scheduling of more quality opponents. WiFi and replays are nice, but those aren’t important. That’s just merely jumping to conclusions and hoping they patch it up. More quality opponents could be an important reason the SEC jumps to a nine-game conference schedule as opposed to staying with eight.
The SEC is all about tradition, pride and passion. If the conference can figure out how to preserve that, bottle it up and funnel it into an affordable game day experience, fans will keep showing up in masses.
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