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Report: College football attendance down 3% in opening month

USC v Arizona State Getty Images

Five weeks into the 2013 college football season, announced attendance at FBS games is down 3 percent compared to the same point in 2012 and almost 6 percent from this point in 2011, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the Birmingham News.

The average attendance this season is 45,596, down from 47,181 through five weeks in 2012 and 48,279 at this time in 2011, according to an analysis. As ticket prices increase and nearly every game gets televised, many schools have faced decreasing crowds in recent years.

So far this season, 13 of the top 25 attendance leaders are down compared to the first five weeks of 2012. Three declined only less than 1 percent. Six dropped by 4 percent or more: Penn State (4 percent), USC (23 percent), Michigan State (8 percent), Iowa (6 percent), Arkansas (7 percent) and Virginia Tech (4 percent).

There are some inconsistencies in the study since schedules in the early going vary from year to year and will therefore have some influence on attendance. Also, there are more schools in the FBS this year, which can bring the average down a bit. And note that the biggest drop in attendance came from USC, which just fired its coach.

But even the SEC’s numbers are taking a hit:

Eight of the SEC’s schools are within 2 percent of where they were in 2012, when the SEC led the nation in attendance but had its lowest average since 2007. Half of the SEC has declined, although two schools are by less than 1 percent.

The attendance trend seems odd given the feeling that the sports is more popular than ever.

The continuing poor state of the economy probably plays a big factor in declining attendance. Student tastes are also becoming more fickle, which has an impact as well. But it’s possible, too, that college football is reaching a point of over-saturation. With so much coverage being thrown at us year-round and social media contributing to non-stop chatter, are the games becoming less attractive for fans to attend?

Perhaps the new College Football Playoff will help turn things around…

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22 Responses to “Report: College football attendance down 3% in opening month”
  1. cometkazie says: Oct 1, 2013 10:49 PM

    “But it’s possible, too, that college football is reaching a point of over-saturation. With so much coverage being thrown at us year-round and social media contributing to non-stop chatter, are the games becoming less attractive for fans to attend?”

    That, and why spend the money?

  2. burm61 says: Oct 1, 2013 11:22 PM

    It’s tough to justify spending money on sporting events when every week there’s an article about assaults or even murders. It’s easier to watch the game at home with 3-4 people without the cost of tickets, gas, possible hotel, and then deal with drunken buffoons.

  3. tmb333 says: Oct 1, 2013 11:47 PM

    Fans pay big money to go to the games and sit in the weather and then have to endure TV timeouts nearly every change of possession lasting 2-3 minutes, limited video replay and limited cell coverage to check scores and stats.

    I am beginning to ask myself why I do it. Every game is on TV. I can see every replay, don’t fight the weather, traffic or the 225 mile round trip. With HD TV the game experience is better at home and much less expensive.

    If schools want people to come out they are going to have to improve the experience. A start would be shorter TV timeouts. Heck, show commercials the entire halftime so the game flows. Show all replays even if play is being reviewed. Lower concession pricing and sell beer. For the record, I do not drink.

  4. skwackquackwoof says: Oct 1, 2013 11:59 PM

    There were bigger games in 2011. 2012&13 there have been real soft schedules. I love my ducks but I’m not paying to see them beat up on Nichols St.

  5. shadowcell says: Oct 2, 2013 12:09 AM

    On top of the bad economy, the rising prices, and oversaturation, I wonder if the constant string of criminal mischief among college players and the stream of NCAA scandals are turning people away.

  6. barnesaintnoble says: Oct 2, 2013 12:18 AM

    Picture is so great on television, and you can even find your teams radio call to get even more information. Peek over at other games during commercials.

    Gas, Hotels, Parking, Food, Alcohol, Tickets. It Adds up. Not to mention traffic and drunk drivers on a ride home, if applicable.

  7. Deb says: Oct 2, 2013 12:35 AM

    If I get an opportunity to visit my family in Tuscaloosa during the season, I look forward to planning the trip around a Bama home game. They have season tickets, great parking places, and it’s a fun time with the hometown crowd. But at the SEC Championship, my family was seated across the aisle from adult Georgia fans who screamed “F you” at them and their kids through the whole game until my 9-year-old niece was in tears. They’ve never had that from rival fans at any other championship or title game.

    Would I pay to be abused at an NCAA away game? Not a chance. Would I pay to sit next to drunken, foul-mouthed, possibly violent louts at an NFL game? Not unless I had a seat in Dan Rooney’s box at Heinz Field. The rewards aren’t worth the risks.

  8. floridacock says: Oct 2, 2013 7:41 AM

    They are going to squeeze every penny out of us one way or anther. Eventually most games will be pay per view

  9. be4bama says: Oct 2, 2013 9:20 AM

    I no longer can afford to attend all the home games. Hopefully, I’ll get to go to 1 or 2 more this year.

  10. redbearwoodall says: Oct 2, 2013 9:27 AM

    Attendance is down, but I’m sure TV viewership is up. People in these comments have already given plenty of reasons why watching games at home is better than watching games live. It’s a no-brainer.

  11. mrsmell says: Oct 2, 2013 9:29 AM

    I didnt buy my LED to watch netflix. The game experiences is bar none one the coolest thing I have done, but meh, the bar scene is just as productive sometimes.

  12. 8to80texansblog says: Oct 2, 2013 9:49 AM

    One game that really surpised me was the A&M v Bama game. The hottest ticket in sports but they didn’t set a record for attendance. It was like the 2nd or 3rd best crowd in Kyle Field history.

    I would have thought they would have shattered the previous record with all the hype around that game.

  13. dhardy8207 says: Oct 2, 2013 10:32 AM

    What I find interesting is this article was from the Birmingham News. However, when I researched tickets on sale for the 2013 season, all the BAMA home games were sold out.

    Not sure if UAB’s ticket sales figure into this, but BAMA games are standing room only…

  14. overratedgators says: Oct 2, 2013 12:12 PM

    To paraphrase Bill Clinton: It’s the screens, stupid. Time to acknowledge that TV technology has gotten so good (and with the advent of streaming to phones and tablets, so pervasive), that there’s little incentive to spend money and hassle on attendance anymore. This is a growing concern not just for college football, but all sports. The days of building mega-stadiums and jacking up ticket prices are probably over for good, because TV just offers a better experience. Time to rethink the model. Drop ticket prices to fill seats for now, and then over time, build smaller stadiums that are more like glorified TV studios, and focus on ways to drive up the value of broadcast rights. Because without that kind of fundamental shift, stadiums will soon go the way of newspapers – an outmoded way of experiencing something.

  15. extram5 says: Oct 2, 2013 1:08 PM

    With the popularity of very large HD screen TV’s at home and the very high price of admission to these games, I would expect a steady decline in attendance.

  16. harrylanejr says: Oct 2, 2013 1:09 PM

    Many people who are fans of the game, would rather sit in front of an HD 60″ tv out of the noise and weather with their favorite beverage with friends and enjoy the game and other games being played at the same time. I guess we’re just a little spoiled.

  17. normtide says: Oct 2, 2013 1:29 PM

    I remember going to games that were not televised, and they were so much better for the fans in the stadium. Shorter half time, no TV time outs, etc.. Today, all games are on TV, and it slows down the game, for fans in the stadium.

    Ali that said, nothing beats a have day experience on campus.

  18. cometkazie says: Oct 2, 2013 3:08 PM

    I live about a mile from the Centre Colonels’ stadium. Believe it or not, I have driven right by it 30min before kickoff with no problem.

    It’s probably purer football than anything on TV.

    I had LSU tickets from 1971 until about 1993. I don’t miss having them. Of course, living 775mi away from Tiger Stadium might have a little bit to do with that, but I gave up my tickets for all the reasons mentioned.

    And it’s gotten where the games on TV drag on much too long.

  19. 6stn says: Oct 2, 2013 10:18 PM

    When the games on TV get one-sided, or sloppy, I always have an F-Troop DVD nearby to get me through the afternoon, without worrying about traffic.

  20. jimsjam33 says: Oct 3, 2013 12:18 AM

    USC stinks . So no college football interest for me this season .

  21. lsuwes says: Oct 5, 2013 12:17 AM

    The reason is simple:

    It is because of the state of the economy coupled with the ticket prices and overall expense of attending games.

    The economic pain factor does have a limit.

  22. ididnotsendthis says: Oct 5, 2013 1:46 PM

    The reason for declining membership is two fold:
    1. Soccer – The entire grade/high school sports “push” is towards soccer, NOT football. High school kids now “hound” mom and dad for soccer tickets, not college football tickets. School kids’ Mom’s are afraid of football injuries, and the low degree of safety/protection for their kids.
    2. The overall economy, while improving, is way short of meeting the needs of the common man, and, as previously mentioned by other commenters: The ticket prices continue to rise for no reason.

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