Sugar Bowl attendance at its lowest since 1939

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Through 30 games of the 2012-13 postseason slate, bowl attendance is down five percent from a year ago and eight percent from two years ago, the Birmingham News is reporting.  And nowhere is that dip in attendance more personified than in last night’s bowl offering.

The announced attendance for last night Sugar Bowl matchup between Louisville and Florida — won 33-23 in stunning fashion by the Cardinals — was just 54,178, down over 10,000 (64,512) from the announced attendance of last year’s Virginia Tech-Michigan game.  Not only that, the News notes, it’s the smallest crowd for the Sugar Bowl since 44,308 managed to show up for TCU-Carnegie Mellon way back in 1939.

Prior to 2009, just twice in a 35-year span had Sugar Bowl attendance dropped below 70,000; last night marked the third time in the past four years attendance had fallen short of that mark.

This is not a problem specific to the Sugar Bowl, or college football in general.  NFL attendance has been in a steady decline in recent years, so much so that the league and its clubs are leaving no stone unturned to improve the in-game experience for fans in an attempt to get them back to the stadium on Sundays and away from man caves and sports bars and the like.

It is, though, a problem for college football.

Of the 30 bowl games played thus far, attendance has dropped in 16 of them from the same time a year ago, with the per-game average coming in at just over 46,000.  Six games, including the Sugar Bowl, have had 10,000-plus fewer fans come through the turnstiles than in 2011-12 — the Belk, Meineke Car Care, Gator, Little Caesars and Russell Athletics Bowls.  The latter two actually realized attendance drops of more than 20,000 each.  On the flip side, just two games — the Poinsettia and Armed Forces Bowls — had attendance figures that increased by more than 10,000.

Of course, matchups certainly play a role in attendance.  The Gator Bowl went from Florida-Ohio State (61,312) to Northwestern-Mississippi State (48,612) this year, while Florida State-Notre Dame (68,305) in the Russell Athletics Bowl gave way to Rutgers-Virginia Tech (48,127).

Unlike the NFL, though, college football’s attendance problems aren’t necessarily related to the at-home experience being of a higher-quality — and cheaper — than the in-stadium one and the complex issue of flipping a collective fantasy mindset.  Rather, the reasons behind college football’s postseason attendance woes are relatively simple and straightforward: at 35, there are too many damn bowl games.

Water down the postseason with the likes of San Jose State-Bowling Green (17,835, Military Bowl), Ball State-UCF (21,759, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl) and Central Michigan-Western Kentucky (23,310, Little Caesars Bowl), and attendance will continue to be an issue.  Continue to invite nearly 60 percent of FBS schools to fill all available bowl slots — including 6-6 teams and, in one case (Georgia Tech), a 6-7 team — and bowl attendance articles will be an annual rite of winter.

Pare down the number of bowl games, though, and you’ll create better matchups and increase per-game attendance.  Thanks to the plethora of made-for-TV bowl games, though, don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

UCF to be without starting LT for Peach Bowl matchup with Auburn

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UCF will have its head coach for one of the biggest games in the football program’s history, but they’ll be without their quarterback’s blindside protector.

According to Shannon Green of the Orlando Sentinel, Aaron Evans will not play in No. 12 UCF’s Peach Bowl matchup with No. 7 Auburn New Year’s Day.  The specific nature of the injury that will sideline the offensive lineman wasn’t detailed.

The past three seasons, Evans started 36 of 37 games at left tackle.  12 of those starts came during the Knights run to a perfect regular season and American Athletic Conference championship that helped propel them to a New Year’s Six bowl.

With Evans out, Jake Brown will likely get the start against the Tigers.  Brown started 11 games at left guard for the Knights this season.

Baylor reportedly losing QB Zach Smith to transfer

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Two-thirds of the way through a one-win season, Zach Smith lost his job as the starting quarterback at Baylor.  Nearly three weeks later, it appears the sophomore has decided to ply his future football wares elsewhere.

According to ESPN Radio‘s Central Texas affiliate, Smith will be transferring from the Bears football program.  An official announcement, either from the player or the team or both, is expected to go down at some point in the not-too-distant future.

As a true freshman, Smith started the last four games of the 2016 season because of an injury to starter Seth Russell.  He started six games this past season before true freshman Charlie Brewer started the last four.  Brewer is now the only scholarship quarterback the Bears have on their roster.

Smith will leave Waco having thrown for 2,997 yards and 21 touchdowns.  The highlight of his career was a 463-yard, four-touchdown performance in an eight-point loss to Oklahoma this past September.

Jalen Jelks eschews leaving early for NFL, will return to Oregon

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We haven’t yet reached the first-ever early signing period, and Oregon has already bolstered its 2018 defense.

Jalen Jelks confirmed to The Oregonian that he has decided to push off the NFL and will instead return to Oregon for another season.  The redshirt junior indicated that he needs to work on his game before he takes it to the next level.

“I’m back for sure,” the redshirt junior defensive end told the newspaper. “I talked to my parents and my family and everything and just probably the best decision for me is to make the best out of next season and make a lot more plays than I did this season.

“I missed a lot of plays, and if I can capitalize on that and translate it to next season I could contribute a lot to the draft.”

This season, Jelks led the Ducks in tackles for loss with 15; in sacks with 6.5; and in quarterback hits with four.  The tackles for loss were second in the Pac-12 to Washington State’s Hercules Mata’afa‘s 21.5.

Rashaan Salaam’s 1994 Heisman up for auction, could fetch $300K

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A little over a year after his death, one of the most noteworthy pieces of Rashaan Salaam‘s athletic career finds itself up for sale to the public yet again.

According to the Denver Post, the former Colorado star running back’s 1994 Heisman Trophy will be auctioned off next month and is expected to sell for upwards of $300,000. A portion of whatever the trophy fetches will be donated to CTE research.

Salaam, who took his own life at the age of 42 last December, was diagnosed with CTE symptoms postmortem.

After rushing for more than 2,000 yards, Salaam in 1994 became the first, and thus far only, Buffaloes football player to win the most prestigious trophy in college football.  In 2013, Salaam sold the trophy to a sports memorabilia dealer who subsequently sold it to the unnamed individual who is selling it at auction. “The trophy also includes a letter from Salaam, acknowledging the 2013 sale,” the Post wrote.

Based on what we’ve found, the largest amount a Heisman Trophy has ever brought in was the $395,000 a California businessman paid for Minnesota’s Bruce Smith‘s 1941 award in 2005.