Greg McElroy has a theory for why college football fans aren’t showing up for games. And if he’s right, the game may have some continued issues moving forward.
During a Wednesday edition of his morning radio show on SiriusXM’s ESPU Radio, McElroy went deep into the logic behind college football’s largest year-over-year attendance drop in 34 years. The news that major college football attendance was down more than 3 percent from 2016 to 2017 was revealed in an alarming report on Tuesday, with the SEC seeing the worst percentage drop of any Power 5 conference.
His solution was sobering: Fans of the major of the nation’s programs feel like their teams don’t matter. And at least part of the problem is folks like him who cover the sport.
“We are paying less and less attention to the schools that are not in contention,” the former Alabama quarterback said. “I would love to know, on a minute-by-minute basis, the comparison between the 10 teams that we discuss as having a chance at the College Football Playoff on this radio program. And, look, it’s not our fault. We go where the callers want to go. Where do we spend the majority of our time? We spend it on 10, maybe 15 teams. Maybe 20. Because it’s a caller-driven show and calls are most likely going to be on teams who are in contention for the College Football Playoff.
“The teams that aren’t, it feels like they don’t matter. It’s not really true, but people aren’t willing to spend their last dollar to go to a game. Ticket prices are expensive, concessions are expensive and now you get an incredible experience watching it on your television screen. If your team is in contention for the playoff, you feel like you have to go: ‘I’m gonna go, I’ve gotta see them. This could be my only chance to see a national championship team, of course I’m going to go see them.’ So, they spend their last dollar trying to go to those games. Why do you think Bama was top-4 in attendance this year? It has to do with the stadium, sure, but it’s also because Bama is crazy about football. So, I do think if you’re in contention for the College Football Playoff, you’re going to get more attention and people are going to spend more money on you. If you’re not in contention, people would just assume say ‘Hey, I’ll watch ’em on TV. I’ll watch ’em on the SEC Network.'”
Much of what McElroy says here is true.
Elite teams have always drawn the majority of the attention from national outlets such as ESPN, but there always seemed to be localized support for teams that have strong programs no matter the status of ranking in the College Football Playoff rankings. Teams that have strong, winning seasons are sometimes marginalized by the attention given to the teams at the very top, and it does make it easier for fans to take advantage of the “convenience” options they have for consuming college football programming from their living rooms, cell phones and pretty much anywhere with a WiFi connections.
How do SEC athletic directors make the fans of teams out of CFP contention feel like being at the stadium truly matters again? Perhaps it begins in premium game day experiences. Or at family-friendly price points. Each school is assuredly actively taking measures to avoid another steep decline in 2018.
You can listen to McElroy’s take on the college football attendance situation here:
What about you? pic.twitter.com/59eUti48fF
— ESPNU Radio on SiriusXM (@ESPNUonSiriusXM) February 14, 2018
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