Surprised this went unposted, but Darren Rovell wrote a piece on ESPN.com today highlighting the trend of poor student turnout in college football. Elements of the article have certainly been touched on in the past around these parts, but attendence (students in particular) is a looming problem, especially with next years yawn-inducing home slate.
The Michigan-specific part:
This year, the University of Michigan drew the most fans of any school for the 16th year in a row. But 26 percent of students who paid for their tickets didn't show up at an average home game this season. That's an increase from 25 percent last year and 21 percent in 2011.
Not only did Michigan have more no-shows, they also only sold 19,850 student season tickets, about a 10 percent drop from the year before. Michigan added a $7.50 fee to each ticket this season to support student programs and also took away senior reserved seating in favor of a general admission policy which contributed to fewer people buying tickets.
Hoping to slow the slide, Michigan sent out a questionnaire to students at season's end, asking them why they might not have been happy with the stadium experience.
Adam Stillman, a senior at Michigan who attended all but one of the team's home games this year, shared his answers with ESPN.com. How he prioritized his answers might scare administrators, many of whom have looked to Wi-Fi connectivity as the answer to attracting younger fans. Stillman ranked sitting with friends, sitting close to the field, the outcome of the game, tailgating, the student section atmosphere, food specials and entertainment before the importance of Wi-Fi.
"I've kind of accepted that I'm not getting reception in and around Michigan Stadium," Stillman said. "The problem is in all the other areas. There's nothing to do while I'm waiting on line for an hour to get into the stadium, and there's little added value from being in the stands watching the game.
As the business of college football grew, many schools began moving student sections into some of the worst seats in order to make boosters happy in prime seats. But as student crowds at some schools started to fade, athletic department officials at those schools began to understand that if they didn't get the students in the building while they were at school, they might not get their money in the future."
Success, or lack thereof, on the field obviously plays an important role. For years, Iowa's student section capacity was steady at 10,400 students per game. But this year after going 19-19 in games from 2010-2012, the school only sold 7,500 tickets and an average of 30 percent of those students didn't show up for the games. In the middle of the season, Iowa closed off two sections of the stadium previously occupied by students and began selling those tickets to the general public. Only half the student tickets purchased for the game against Michigan, which happened during the school's Thanksgiving break, were used.
Missing one out of every fifth student who bought a ticket has become pretty common these days. Michigan State has sold out its 13,500 student tickets since 2007, but the school says its no-show rate for home games this year still was about 20 percent. That's for a season in which the Spartans went 13-1, won the Big Ten title and ended the season with a victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
Penn State's overall attendance has been on a five-year decline that represents a total drop of almost 10 percent. The students are actually seen as a bright spot, as the school sold almost 1,000 more full season tickets this year (21,368). An 18.1 percent student no-show rate is actually among the best in the Big Ten.
"While game time, opponent, promotion and record all had some effect, weather had the most direct effect on our student crowd," said Jeff Garner, Penn State's assistant athletic director for ticketing sales and service.For Penn State, that means cold, wind, rain and snow.