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Concern rising over dropping student attendance at college football games


ESPN’s Darren Rovell has a lengthy look into the dropping student attendance rates at college football games, a problem that seems to be growing among powerful and weak teams across all conferences. It’s one that has university administrators worried given a school’s current students are counted on to be season ticket holders after graduating.

And if students aren’t taking in the game day atmosphere now, would they want to down the road?

The most common complaints included restrictions on tailgating at the stadium, or the quality of presentation of the games on television compared to the sight lines and breaks in the action at the stadium. Fans of the worst teams complained that the games weren’t competitive enough, yet so did did fans of the best teams. One thing that wasn’t an issue? Ticket prices, as most are either free or heavily subsidized.

Rovell spoke to a few students from across the country about declining attendance, and these two responses stuck out:

Sam Eichenblatt, Georgia Tech: “I want to be able to flip over to other football games while watching my team. I don’t want to miss the entire LSU-Alabama game because my team is playing at the same time.”

Greg Licht, Iowa: “There are students here who have been Hawkeye fans since birth and will show up every game. Others would rather drink away their fall Saturdays.”

Those are two complaints colleges can’t do anything about. Your upper-echelon football schools don’t have to worry too much about students ditching games to watch better ones on TV. But for middle or lower-tier schools, enticing students to spend money and time watching a pair of 3-3 ACC teams instead of a primetime SEC showdown would seem difficult.

And then there’s the issue of sobriety, though that’s hardly a new thing. What is new, though, is the amount of games on TV (or streaming online) and the accessibility and connectivity that’s gained from hanging back at an apartment, frat or bar to watch them all while drinking without the watchful eye of stadium security.

But the best thing a college program can do to combat all the no-shows: Win. There still will be no-shows for the FBS and directional Texas non-conference games, and even some of the bottom-feeder conference opponents. But winning breeds an atmosphere that’s often attractive enough to pull students in. It won’t fix everything, but it’s the best way to stem the no-show tide.

Whether these issues result in fewer season ticket holders and less money from boosters, we won’t know for a while. But it’s hard to resist the pull to go back to your alma mater once one graduates, and home football games are generally the best excuse for that trip.

Steve Spurrier discusses retirement; Gamecocks name Shawn Elliott interim coach

Steve Spurrier
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Odds are pretty good Steve Spurrier has coached his final game as the Head Ball Coach, but Spurrier let it be known he is not going to go away quite as easily as you might think. Spurrier addressed the media today as South Carolina made its transition between coaches official. Spurrier noted he is resigning as head coach, but he is not necessarily retiring. As previously reported, Shawn Elliott will take on the role as interim head coach of the Gamecocks effective immediately.

The first thing Spurrier wants to remind everybody is he is not retiring. This is simply a resignation from his current position. Spurrier left the door open to possible options down the road for him in his post-coaching career. The idea of Spurrier walking away from the football world never to be heard from again is a startling one, so it is good to know he is not going to let that happen.

“College football is a game of recruiting, as well know,” Spurrier said when assessing why it was right for him to leave his job now. “That’s another reason I need to move on. I don’t know if coaching is completely over or not. It is fun being on a team. I might be a consultant for someone. I doubt if I’ll be a head coach again, but who knows?”

Spurrier said he realized Sunday the time to walk away was now and explained he always knew he would need to step aside the moment he saw himself holding the program back. That echoes the sentiment he has shared over the years, especially when asked about coaches like Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden as they each got up in the years. This season South Carolina is off to a 2-4 start, so the writing was on the wall for Spurrier, who also said it was in the best interests for all if an inevitable change was handled immediately.

“We’ve slipped. It’s my fault. I’m the head coach,” Spurrier said of South Carolina’s recent struggles.”We haven’t lost it. We’ve got a dang good team.”

“Our team is not in shambles despite what some might say,” Elliott said when he was given a chance to speak to the media. “We’re going to do everything we can to make the University of South Carolina proud of this football program.”

Elliott will now have the rest of the season to show what he can do as a head coach, and he knows this will be a bit of an open audition for the job as South Carolina starts searching for its next head coach.

Mark Dantonio quickly tosses aside South Carolina discussion

Mark Dantonio

Michigan State has become a national power under the coaching of Mark Dantonio. The grizzled and confident coach has put together a master plan in East Lansing and has taken the Spartans to the top of the Big Ten along the way, capturing a Big Ten title and victories in the Cotton Bowl and Rose Bowl as well as in-state dominance over the Michigan Wolverines. Danotnio is preparing his Spartans to take on the Wolverines this week, but with the new vacancy opening up at South Carolina following the sudden retirement of Steve Spurrier, Dantonio has already been presented with the question about his thoughts on coaching at South Carolina.

He did not seem all that interested in discussing the vacancy when meeting with Michigan State media this morning.

“Coach Spurrier’s had an outstanding career there, it’s alma mater, and we’re here to talk about Michigan,” Dantonio said when asked about it today. Video below from the Big Ten Network

Dantonio played defensive back for the Gamecocks in the mid 1970s, which helps make Dantonio an interesting name to mention in any coaching future discussion out of Columbia. While Dantonio may have played at South Carolina for Jim Carlen, Dantonio grew up in Ohio and has coached the bulk of his career within Ohio and the Big Ten. He is also one win away from picking up his 100th career coaching victory, 81 of which have come at Michigan State.