Missing from College Stadiums: Students

SPORTS

Football stadiums will be packed this weekend for the kickoff of the college season. But many of the student sections are likely to have empty seats, a sign of soaring ticket prices, more lopsided games, fewer match-ups against longtime rivals, and the proliferation of televised games that make it easier than ever for students to keep tailgating long after kickoff. (Wall Street Journal)

Is your team a part of “football nation”?

Are its students?

At top-ranked Florida State, student attendance at Seminole football games is down 6% over the past five years. Photograph by Ayzmo, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

At top-ranked Florida State, student attendance at Seminole football games is down 6% over the past five years.
Photograph by Ayzmo, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Discussion Ideas

  • The Wall Street Journal article reports that “[t]otal turnout at [college football] home games hit a record in 2013,” although student turnout slipped significantly. If college students are not going to college football games, who is? What are some other important groups that make up college football’s live audience?
    • Fans and local community members. College sports is hugely popular, and has a huge number of adult, wage-earning fans and their families.
    • Alumni. Alumni are critical donors to many college athletic programs, and regularly invest in season tickets.
    • Guests of corporate hospitality. Businesses often purchase tickets in bulk and provide employees with tickets to games.

 

  • The article goes on to say “For schools in college football’s top division, football revenues soared 99% in the last decade.” (Wow.) Clearly, their business model is working. So why are college football powerhouses such as Michigan State, Alabama, and UCLA working to recruit more students to attend games?
    • These are college teams, the athletes are students, and on many campuses, attending games is a traditional part of the college experience.
    • Students’ rowdy, enthusiastic presence helps the team. According to the WSJ, many colleges think “noisy students help give their team a home-field advantage.”
    • Today’s students are tomorrow’s alumni. Building a relationship with students and earning their loyalty can benefit a college or university in the long run—students will eventually enter the workforce and be able to invest in their former school. Alumni donations (for everything from science labs to endowed professorships, as well as football stadiums) are absolutely crucial to any university.

 

  • What are schools doing to encourage students to attend games?
    • Winning helps! Alabama and UCLA both have enviable outlooks and records, and both have reported increased attendance.
    • The University of Georgia has improved cellular reception at its stadium, encouraging fans to easily post, tweet, and otherwise communicate their experience.
    • LSU has improved sanitation in its stadium restrooms.
    • UCLA has worked to create a community among its team and fans. Dan Guerrero, UCLA’s athletic director, rides in the bus provided to students to attend games. The program has also offered a fun “Football 101″ crash course to help students unfamiliar with the game.

 

  • See how Alabama, UCLA, and other teams ranked in student attendance in this great interactive from the WSJ. If you were an administrator or coach at one of these schools, how would you encourage more students to attend games? If you were a student, what would convince you to attend games?
    • Read the first paragraph of this blog post, which gives the leading reasons why students are not attending games. Then think about some simple solutions—and the advantages and disadvantages to each:
      • reducing the price of student tickets
      • making televised games pay-per-view
      • prioritizing games with traditional rivals

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