Not news: Attendance in most sports in America is sagging. The experience at home, sitting comfortably in front of a 40 or 50 inch TV, with the ability to change the channels during the millions of commercials, pause the game for bathroom breaks, surf the web on your laptop or tablet, and perhaps most importantly, drink around friends and not rowdy assholes, is significantly better. Rising ticket prices, traffic snarls around the stadium, absurd parking prices … just stay home.
The SEC is concerned. We covered dipping college football attendance in December, but the Times Free Press has a deeper look into the numbers:
Nine of the 14 SEC schools suffered declines last season, with Tennessee’s average home attendance dipping under 90,000 for the first time since 1979 and Kentucky’s slipping under 50,000 for the first time since 1996.
Average attendance at SEC games went from 63,870 in 1990 to 72,448 in 2000 to a peak of 76,844 in 2008. It has since backtracked, with last year’s average at 75,444.
Panic? Eh. It’s hardly a drop. But the quotes from the SEC suits in that piece make it sound as if the sky is falling. Tony Barnhart of CBS wrote an entire column about the attendance woes over the weekend. There’s some type of SEC task force that is on the case. They’ll improve Wi-Fi! Show more replays at the stadium! Take unused student tickets and sell them to fans!
All those will barely register. You know what would?
Improving the schedule.
From Barnhart’s column:
That, said Tennessee’s Hart, is why he believes the SEC should go to a nine-game conference schedule in order to give fans more quality games.
It’s simple – cut out the September cupcakes. This won’t be an easy decision, because ultimately, schools know the best route to the BCS title game is an easy schedule. And the small schools need those big road game paychecks (Million Dollar Maulings? Could that stick?) to sustain their athletic departments.
Ultimately, this means we’re headed toward an expanded playoff, where a team from the SEC losing 2-3 games would still have a shot to get hot in December/January and make a run at the title. It works beautifully in the NFL.