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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.

Starting LB C.J. Johnson reveals surgery on social media, Ole Miss confirms

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Ole Miss will be without a starting piece of its defensive puzzle for an extended period of time, both the player and the school revealed Tuesday.

With rumors swirling about his condition, C.J. Johnson confirmed on his personal Twitter account late this morning that he will be undergoing surgery at some point in the not-too-distant future.  The linebacker sustained an injury to his left knee in last Saturday’s loss to Florida and did not return to the contest.

Subsequent to that posting, Ole Miss confirmed that Johnson underwent surgery earlier in the day to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.  The procedure and rehab will sideline Johnson for a period of 4-6 weeks.

At the low-end of the prognosis, Johnson would miss the next four games — New Mexico State, Memphis, Texas A&M, Auburn — and return for the Nov. 7 game against Arkansas.  The high-end would have him sidelined until the regular-season finale against Mississippi State.

Johnson had started all five games at middle linebacker for the Rebels.  He started 26 games at defensive end the past three years before moving to linebacker.

Butch Jones labels rumor of ‘physical altercation’ with Vols player ‘absolutely ridiculous’

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Head coach Butch Jones of the Tennessee Volunteers yells at Marquez North #8 during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Already in the crosshairs for his 2-3 team’s late-game failures, Butch Jones now finds himself under increasing scrutiny for something that allegedly happened a couple of months ago.

The website Gridiron.com, which features such respected journalists Tony Barnhart and Mike Huguenin among others, reported earlier today that the Tennessee head coach was involved in what was described as a “physical altercation” with senior offensive lineman Mack Crowder during summer camp this past August.  The source close to the program added that practice film that day captured the alleged incident, although it’s unclear if that tapes still exists.

From the site’s report:

The incident occurred during fall camp, about the time that news started to come out about a few offensive linemen who were considering stepping away from the program. Crowder walked off the practice field one day and missed a day or two of practice, and Brett Kendrick and Dylan Wiesman were said to be contemplating their futures. Sources say the players’ actions stemmed from an incident between Jones and Crowder.

The website also made a Freedom of Information request seeking any correspondence between the university and the Crowder family be turned over, but writes that UT “administrators said any sort of letter or correspondence that may or may not have happened was covered under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.”

Monday, Jones labeled what began as message-board speculation that he had struck one of his Vols players as “absolutely ridiculous.” The Knoxville News Sentinel contacted Crowder’s father, with the paper writing that “he had no comment and did not want to give validation to message boards.”

At least publicly, the university has yet to address the allegations.  Jones will get yet another chance to address the speculation with the media in the very near future.