College football attendance at lowest levels since 2003

Submitted by bluebyyou on December 11th, 2012 at 11:52 AM

All of those empty seats we saw in a large number of  non-Big House games this year were no mirage.  College football attendance is at its lowest levels since 2003.  It also seems that our students are not alone with respect to their attendance "issues" of the last few years.

I also thought this piece was relevant in view of yesterday's PSD increases noted on an Mgoboard thread.

Five of the six BCS conferences reported attendance decreases, and per al.comreporter Jon Solomon, the only exception -- the Pac-12 -- was an exception only because Cal left its temporary limited-capacity stadium setup in 2011 for its newly renovated Memorial Stadium.…

Note - this was not OT because BIG football was discussed.



December 11th, 2012 at 12:25 PM ^

  1. I was a student, and worked 30 hours a week to put myself through college, and also had to work at the games as an usher to be there. We're not all spoiled brats, asshat.
  2. Students showing up on time has always been an issue and is not suddenly causing nationwide drops in college football attendance. I would bet a great deal of money that the fraction of student seats empty throughout the game is statistically equivalent to the fraction of non-student steats empty throughout the game.
  3. I have no number three, but a two-point list looked dumb.



December 11th, 2012 at 12:37 PM ^

Well speaking as a climber, when you're belaying and the climber falls early (after only the first or second bolt/gear placement), the term hits pretty close to home. Not a pleasant experience, especially considering the typical hygiene of climbers. I don't recommend giving one to your relatives. Unless you hate them.


December 11th, 2012 at 12:41 PM ^

I wonder how student tickets get counted elsewhere. At Michigan, they're sold as season tix and sell out, so even if the students don't show up, they're counted as attending. I know other universities just require a student ID to get into the game (ie, student tickets are included within the nebulous student fees or just absorbed by the athletic departments) I wonder if those places (like Northwestern) just count a block of student tickets or if they go and actually tabulate card swipes.


December 11th, 2012 at 1:18 PM ^

Everyone does that.  Attendance always has to do with tickets sold, regardless of whether or not they're used.   There is no point in doing it otherwise.  Schools want their attendance to be as high as possible, to create the impression of strong demand, so listing the "paid attendance" is the way to go.

That students at Michigan and elsewhere are bad about getting to games on time is a separate issue.


December 11th, 2012 at 4:40 PM ^

Paid for my own tickets and know plenty of people who do. I went to every game but some people had to make sacrifices like working on saturdays during worse games to afford tickets.  So yes please stop genarilizing and bashing students for no reason.


December 11th, 2012 at 12:41 PM ^

There was someone in the comments section that more or less summed it up really - overall conference attendance in the Big Ten, for example, may be down, but it has two programs in Michigan and Ohio State, for starters, who would have to experience long stretches of mediocrity most likely in order to experience elastic demand. The last time I calculated it for Michigan, it was something on the order of -0.3 for the last few seasons - the average attendance has only gone up by a couple hundred per year, but that is still in the midst of substantial price increases on single game tickets. Relatively few programs have this rather nice problem, which is a shame, and adding Maryland and Rutgers will not help the conference average price elasticity certainly.


December 11th, 2012 at 12:56 PM ^

I was curious what (if anything) had been written on here before about price elasticity of demand for Michigan football tickets. I took to Google and found two posts about it...from you and me. Maybe we're just destined to bring this up every eight months or so.

Also a good thread generally for talk about what the diehards in the fanbase will accept with their wallets open.


December 11th, 2012 at 12:00 PM ^

Obviously what we need is more RAWK music piped in. /s If it's happening nationwide then I'm guessing it's an economic problem, and not an indictment of college football. I will say I think creampuff scheduling does get you a nice say easy win more often than not, but it also gives you games fans just don't care about. You don't want fans saying "eh, this game doesn't matter" if you're an AD. Although I saw empty seats in quite a few of the B1G-Pac12 matchups that kicked off the season, too.


December 11th, 2012 at 12:03 PM ^

You have to distinguish between viewership and attendance.  This point in the article seemed quite relevant.

"(The Big Ten) is going national because of a phenomenon," he said. "Attendance among college-aged students is dropping. The reason is because this generation is completely wired, and they are getting their education and entertainment on tablets and mobile devices. Everyone thinks you make your money in seats. You make it on eyeballs on a screen."


December 11th, 2012 at 12:15 PM ^

Obviously what we need is more RAWK music piped in. /s

I actually wonder how much of a non-sarcastic problem this really is, and not just at Michigan. I don't think Michigan is the only school changing the stadium environment from unique things that got the die hards attached to generic things that attract casual fans. Is it really shocking that those casual fans only show up for the best games?

Shakey Jake

December 11th, 2012 at 12:02 PM ^

High definition television

Also add no lines, expensive parking fees, over priced crappy food, cold or hot weather and DVR.

Topless cheerleaders might help bring attendance up a tad.


December 11th, 2012 at 1:35 PM ^

Add time to the list.  Much less time committment.

When you work 730-530, 5 days a week (or more), and have a family, it's much less time away from the family watching the game on a 50" LED for three hours then driving to A2, tailgating, going to the game, and getting stuck in traffic on Stadium & Main for an hour.


Mr. Rager

December 11th, 2012 at 12:06 PM ^

I have been saying for the last couple of years that football ticket prices (college and NFL) are total bubbles that will get popped in the near term.  I am not surprised that people aren't willing to go to games when they have to shell out a minimum of $100 to make it there and back (not even including adult beverages / food).

The bowl games have always been a scam (hello Rose Bowl tix outside the stadium for $20 and Sugar Bowl tix for $40).  And buying the "partial" season ticket package to UofM games last year was a total fucking joke (to get ND tickets, you couldn't even sell tickets to the other non-conference games).  

All of this during some of the worst economic times over the last two decades.  And the fact that we now have HD televisions that are relatively cheap by comparison (the $ you spend on season tix / parking / gas / booze / food in ONE season could get you a nice ass TV) doesn't help either.  


December 11th, 2012 at 3:29 PM ^

Sports in general is a giant bubble... relying on unsustainable ticket prices and unsustainable TV contracts while charging unsustainable amounts of money for any branded merchandise ($250 for a Red Wings jersey! $100 for a Michigan hoodie!) all to justify absurd payouts to athletes and coaches. The whole thing is going to burst eventually.


December 11th, 2012 at 12:11 PM ^

1. Ticket and parket prices - Both college and pro football are pricing your average joe, or in my case, average john, out of the market.  Most people are struggling these days and taking a family to a $500 football game is not really in the equation.

2.  Home viewing possibilities - HD, LED, 3D, surround sound, multiple games, rewind and fast forward, oh my.

3.  What-The-Hell-Is-Going-On-With-College-Football(?)-Disease - I know many sports fans who are very disinfranchised by the BCS and conference reallignment.


NOLA Wolverine

December 11th, 2012 at 12:15 PM ^

Expanding on point 3, I think a lot of the ticky tack sideline personal foul calls on borderline hits that had no real malicious intent and then the notion to review every touchdown play and put it down at the 1 inch line has been killing the flow for me. I go back and watch some of the older games on the BTN or some on MGoVideo (any of our previous Rose Bowls, for instance) and they feel a lot more watchable when the refs keep their hands off when they're not really needed. Same sort of thing is going on in college basketball, as Dan Dakich let us know multiple times during his UMich broadcast. 


December 11th, 2012 at 12:51 PM ^

This is also about how many TV timeouts there are, and how long they are. Talk about killing the flow of the game! I was astonished at the last game I went to just how long the game took, and how many breaks there were. When I watch at home on TV, I tend to re-wind to watch certain plays again during the commercials, so I don't notice the large gaps in content so much. Which made it all the more shocking to me the last game I went to just how many TV breaks there are now, and how long they take. It's really galling to stand through a game in person when the timing is so clearly geared to favor the networks over the fans in the seats. It's reached the point where I really would rather be at home in front of my TV than in the stands. And as someone who used to go to games in bodypaint, I find that change really saddening.

French West Indian

December 11th, 2012 at 1:54 PM ^

I used to greatly prefer going to untelevised games.  It's really a shame that the people who are paying to attend are treated as if their time is worthless.

In my perfect world, I'd fix college football by broadcasting all of the games commercial free on PBS stations.  That would take out all of the big money that's been distorting everything and quickly return the game to the people.

French West Indian

December 11th, 2012 at 12:17 PM ^

For me personally, the money & the technology aren't huge factors but the fact that the powers that be have been relentlessly fucking with the game over the past twenty years is a real turn off.

I now literally watch less football because I have to spend so much of my free time on the internet complaining about all the changes.


December 11th, 2012 at 12:28 PM ^

#1 is why I hardly go anymore. I can rarely afford a ticket alone, and having to pay for parking is not an option at this point. When I CAN afford to make it to a game, I park far enough away that I don't have to pay, and I smuggle in a bottle of water so I don't have to shell out another $5-10 as soon as I'm inside.


December 11th, 2012 at 12:27 PM ^

It's not about filling stadiums for most programs; it's about revenue.  Most football programs a lot more money from gouging customers than they do by filling the stadium.  The Big House is a bad example, becuase Michigan games still sell over 100,000 tickets anyway, so I'll use a hypothetical example.  

If a stadium seats 70,000 and you sell it out, and you double the prices, all you need is 35,000 to create the same revenue, while cutting operating expenses.  My guess is that a typical program would probably sell 60,000 of those 70,000 tickets, creating a huge revenue gain, while giving the appearance that football has become "less popular.":

When I left Ann Arbor in 1998, tickets were somewhere around $25 a game.  I have a feeling that you are all paying a lot more than that now.  I have made no bones about my distaste for David Brandon, but he is doing exactly what I have a feeling they teach at Ross Business School: maximizing revenue from his existing customers.  

That is just how things are done in this era.  The media still act as if attendance really matters, when the bottom line is all that really counts.  College football is healthier than it has ever been, and only stands to become healthier when the superconferences and playoff system bring in even more money.

PB-J Time

December 11th, 2012 at 1:10 PM ^

Your example is the much better one. There are VERY few stadiums that could compare to Michigan Stadium (U-Tenn, Texas, the toilet in ohio, PSU). The overwhealming majority of schools lose money on their football program and do exactly as you are explaining and maximize profits. They will continue to jack up prices until the money flow starts turning in the wrong direction, this is the sad reality.

Sooner than later some of these other reasons for attendance dip (this is still a small isssue to say "drop") may be exacerbated. Imagin if some more people get priced out, the 1/2 - 3/4 full stadiums of people on thier phones, not really cheering...who wants to show up for that? For that I would rather stay home too


December 11th, 2012 at 12:29 PM ^

It's just too expensive for most folks to go to games when they can watch on TV.  Especially when you're playing MAC and WAC teams.  And currently most of the B1G sucks so people prefer not to fork over $$$ to see pillow fights in person.