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SBD/August 29, 2013/College Football PreviewPrint All
University administrators are "concerned about college football attendance, which has declined ever so slightly" among FBS schools over the past four years, according to Jeffrey Martin of USA TODAY. The drop in average attendance is less than 2%, "but it's a trend that has drawn attention." In an era when fans at home can "watch multiple games at the same time, when the stadium video board can't match the number of highlights available on an iPad, when fans inside a stadium get poor cell-phone reception while those at home are texting and Twittering, big-time college programs are feeling pressure to keep pace." Even the SEC has created a "Working Group on Fan Experience." The committee, chaired by Mississippi State AD Scott Stricklin, "exists because the SEC saw a per-game decrease in attendance for a fourth consecutive season." Oregon Senior Associate AD/Marketing & PR Craig Pintens said, "We're dependent on (fans) to generate the revenue to be able to continue to compete at the highest level. We have to make sure we're generating the revenue. The way to do that is to make sure we have the best possible fan experience." Stricklin's committee last year "addressed a major problem -- lack of replays on the stadium big screens." Meanwhile, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby revealed a "plan to air live and taped highlights from the league's other games at stadiums this fall." Just as technology has "complicated the equation for universities, it also presents an opportunity -- such as free and reliable wi-fi to all fans in attendance." But it is an "expensive proposition," ranging from $2-4M per stadium. Architecture firm Populous designer Geoff Cheong said, "The trend we're starting to see is technology, as it advances, it's taking over these facilities, which opens up a lot of opportunities" (USA TODAY, 8/29).
SHOW ME MORE: The AP noted the Big Ten is "allowing an unlimited number of replays to be shown on video boards in football stadiums." Stadiums previously were allowed to show "one replay at no less than 75 percent of real-time speed." The new policy allows for "multiple replays at any speed" (AP, 8/28). ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg noted the Big Ten also is "encouraging its institutions to provide full Wi-Fi service throughout the stadiums, upgrade in-stadium video content and create social media lounges in their stadiums." Big Ten average attendance last season "declined to 70,387, the league's lowest mark since" the '08 season (ESPN.com, 8/28). ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel writes the unlimited replay is "a smart decision" (ESPN.com, 8/29).
The Colorado-Colorado State Rocky Mountain Showdown rivalry game will need a "major walk-up crowd ... to avoid big empty patches" at Sports Authority Field At Mile High on Sunday, according to John Henderson of the DENVER POST. The game drew 76,036 fans when it "first went to Denver" in '98, and the series "peaked in 2003 with 76,219." However, attendance "has steadily declined" since then, and a "record low could be set" on Sunday. CU as of noon Tuesday had sold 29,097 tickets, including 5,302 student tickets, the "slowest sales it has ever had for the Showdown." CSU as of Tuesday had "sold 18,700 tickets, 6,400 for students." New CU AD Rick George said that he will "see how Sunday's game is aesthetically and economically before discussing a move back to a campus venue." The game is contracted for Denver through '19, and "any change George wants, CSU will likely oppose." Much of the drop in attendance in recent years "can be attributed to a drop in the quality of the programs" (DENVER POST, 8/28).
STAY THE COURSE: CSU AD Jack Graham said that declining attendance is "no reason ... to jump ship and move the game back to the respective campuses." Visit Denver VP/Marketing & Business Development Justin Bresler said that event organizer Denver Sports "couldn’t even get a title sponsor" for this year’s game to replace Cinch Jeans after its two-year deal expired. Bresler "wouldn’t say what title sponsorship cost but admitted it represented a 'significant amount' of lost revenue for Denver Sports, which helps organize the event, and the two schools." Graham: "You don’t make decisions to discontinue business activities on the back of down cycles and on the back of emotion, and right now we’re in that cycle" (COLORADOAN, 8/28).
CHANNEL SURFING: In Denver, Dusty Saunders wrote of the CU-CSU game airing on CBSSN, "The expanding cable sports world doesn't always provide better coverage for local viewers." Dish and DirecTV subscribers "need a higher-tiered package to get the game," so "many customers will be out of luck when it comes to comfortable home viewing." Saunders: "In the 'good old days' the annual game was aired on basic cable -- Fox Sports Net (now Root Sports)." The broadcast team will feature Dave Ryan and a "pair of relatively unknowns -- Adam Archuleta and Evan Washburn -- who are not exactly Colorado broadcasting household names" (DENVER POST, 8/26).
Kansas State's Bill Snyder Family Stadium, once all phases of its renovation are complete, "could arguably be one of the most state-of-the-art facilities in the Big 12," according to Joshua Kinder of the MANHATTAN MERCURY. The second phase -- the $75M construction of the West Stadium Center -- "began last fall and included the demolition of the old press box and suites following the football season." It was "just finished" Aug. 21, nine days ahead of tomorrow's opener against North Dakota State. The "major undertaking included the addition of a student-athlete dining hall, a K-State athletics hall of fame, new ticket office, new restrooms and concessions, new team store, enhanced field lighting and the addition of increased-revenue suites." The third phase, which is "still under development, is set to include a new strength and conditioning center, recruiting lounge for prospects and their families, a new video and sound system and a limestone wall around the field to replace the current chain-link fencing." Construction of "potential condominium and retail space highlights the fourth phase." Phase five is "set to include additional seating and an elevated walkway that connects the east and west sides concourses of the stadium." This phase also "includes new seating in the north and south end zones and a possible reconfiguring of the corner seating of the stadium" (MANHATTAN MERCURY, 8/25).
New technology has "led to advancements in college football operations, bringing ongoing change to the way coaches teach, run a program and communicate with players," according to Mike Anthony of the HARTFORD COURANT. Coaches and players "with iPads, iPhones and the like" are "doing more in less time." Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said of HD cameras, "They give you an opportunity to actually see the film and understand what’s going on instead of just seeing a bunch of guys running around, very blurry." He added, "We’ve got a new app for all the players to have on their iPad, take the game home with them and watch it, cut-ups, all those things. ... A lot of expense to it, but everybody is spending money." But SMU coach June Jones has "embraced technology reluctantly." Jones said, "They can say you have this password and nobody can get on. I’m not so sure. I don’t trust the system." Many D-I programs "are now supplying iPads to players." Communication lines "between coaches and players have increased." UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said, "Players in the program, it’s texting. So when I need them, when I have to talk to them, I text them. They know, if the coach texts you, you either text or you call back -- quick." He added, "Facebook for me is kind of my primary communication source with the prospects. I can't text them. You've heard that a thousand times. But I can Facebook and email." Anthony noted Rutgers is "among the programs that gives every player an iPad" (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/28).
GOING PAPERLESS: SI.com's Martin Rickman noted Miami (FL) "recently launched a new Game Pass card for season-ticket holders." UM Assistant AD/Digital Strategy Brian Bowsher said, "We recognize in all sports and especially in our market here there is a lot of competition for the entertainment dollar. Our season-ticket holders are supporting us in every game, and we definitely want to protect them first and say thank you with this program." Miami is "modeling its program after the one used by various MLS franchises," including the Whitecaps' "Caps Card." UM is "searching for ways to get fans inside the gates early and often, and their efforts seem to be working," as season-ticket sales are "up more than 30 percent." Meanwhile, Veritix has "barely touched the surface" of the college football market. Veritix CEO Samuel Gerace "realizes fanaticism and donations go hand-in-hand when it comes to college athletics, and by organizing an integrated system, schools can more readily track donating and attendance behavior so they can speak to individual fans with a more well-informed voice" (SI.com, 8/28).
New Alabama AD Bill Battle was lured from retirement five months ago and now is "reveling in the challenge," according to Mark McCarter of the HUNTSVILLE TIMES. Battle said, "It was either gonna keep me young or it was gonna kill me. I really believe it'll keep me young." After leaving as Tennessee football coach in '76, Battle "went into private business and ultimately formed Collegiate Licensing Corporation, which he ran for 27 years before selling it" for more than $100M to IMG in '07. Battle said, "Six months ago, if you would have told me I'd be here tonight speaking to you as athletic director of the University of Alabama, I would have thought you might be crazy. Being an athletic director was never anything I aspired to be. I never thought it was a very fun job. I've learned it isn't a very fun job. I've also learned it's a great job." He added, "They thought I could help. I thought about it. I was pretty healthy. I was rested. I hadn't worked very hard the last several years." Battle: "The main thing I've thought about the last several years about going to football games is how bad is the traffic gonna be, was parking gonna be a problem and was my hot dog gonna be cold. Now I've gotta think about being responsible for 125,000 people coming to a 101,000-seat stadium and everybody's problems with traffic and parking and cold hot dogs, putting on the game and getting people home safely" (HUNTSVILLE TIMES, 8/29).
GETTING BORED WITH TITLES? ESPN's Israel Gutierrez said of a report that 30% of UA student tickets went unused last year, "I'm disappointed in the Alabama fan base. ... What are you doing in Tuscaloosa that's more important than going to the Alabama games?" But Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, "I don't buy this 30 percent of the tickets went unused. Those stands are full, those people love Alabama" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/27).
Boston College AD Brad Bates already has "made a potentially tenure-defining hire" in football coach Steve Addazio and is "developing a strategic plan for the department that he hopes will both outline the BC athletics vision and define how to achieve it," according to Jack McCluskey of ESPN BOSTON. Bates said, "Sports in our society are highly valued. They inherently have a marketing aspect to them. And if you’re having success and your students are leaders in the community it’s a very effective and successful marketing vehicle for the entire university." Addazio during the offseason wanted to "redo his office and the Eagles’ locker room in Alumni Stadium and to give the football offices in the Yawkey Center a facelift." He also wanted to "upgrade the video system the team uses." All those requests "were met." Addazio said of the new video system, "That’s pretty expensive stuff. We upgraded all that. ... We’re right where we need to be there. So the administration is real committed to going about the business." Bates knew before he took the job in October '12 there "were game-day deficiencies on and off the field." BC has announced "expanded tailgating options, new hospitality tents outside Alumni Stadium before football games and a new student ticketing plan." Bates said, "We need to create a waiting list. We need to sell out our events. There’s a resource side to that, clearly. But it can’t be exclusively focused on the money and resources." He added, "Not only are we competing against the local professional teams and our ACC counterparts, but there are a lot of ways you can spend your entertainment dollar in the city of Boston" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 8/28).
Missouri AD Mike Alden on Tuesday said that the "capacity of Memorial Stadium will grow from around 67,000 this season to between 72,000 and 74,000 in 2014." Alden said that the "cranes being used to build the new east-side structure will remain up throughout the course of the season." Alden: “That’s great advertising. When people see cranes, they see growth.” Alden said that the "planned south-side structure, which is likely years away from being built, will push the stadium’s capacity to more than 83,000" (KANSASCITY.com, 8/27).
LAKEFRONT PROPERTY: In Seattle, Larry Stone writes Washington, with its Husky Stadium upgrades, "wisely backed off from the inclination to try to out-Phil Knight Phil Knight -- a decision that may have been borne of financial reality as much as philosophy." Stone: "I came away more impressed with the small touches and nuances than the grand flourishes." The stadium visuals "remain stunning, maybe the best in the land when it comes to a stadium backdrop." UW "got plenty of bang" for the $280M price tag. Stone: "I wish they hadn’t had to move the student section to the end zone, but Woodward said it was a financial necessity to offer those front-and-center seats to boosters capable of paying premium prices." Meanwhile, Woodward "wouldn’t be drawn into any comparison with the latest ornament from Oregon -- their $68-million football operations complex." Woodward: “I love ours. I love the sensibility of ours. I love the efficiency of ours ... I love how it works and how it flows. I love my baby. I love this one" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/29).
CONN MEN: In Hartford, Paul Doyle noted Rentschler Field operator Global Spectrum has "already started to put a shine on the building with new scoreboards and planned updates at the concession stand." The state is providing a new $1.7M scoreboard and "wraparound ribbon board that will circle the stadium between the upper deck and lower bowl." The main scoreboard, the "most visible and significant for fans, will be unveiled at the UConn opener" tonight against Towson while the ribbon board "will be installed before the second home game" Sept. 14 against Maryland (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/27).
INTO THE WILD BLUE YONDER: In Colorado Springs, Brent Briggeman notes Air Force has "soared past its program record for football season ticket sales." Opponents "played a big role in this," but coach Troy Calhoun "thinks it's time the academy makes strides to ensure that it isn't reliant upon a big-name opponent to help fill a stadium." The plan "centers on upgrading" Falcon Stadium, with proposed changes including "upgrades to the parking lots, more suites, easier access to concessions and restrooms and fewer seats." Fundraising efforts "are under way." Public money "was not used to build the stadium and the plan is for none to be used to renovate it" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 8/29).
EARNING THEIR STRIPES: In Cincinnati, Bill Koch notes a "very old" Nippert Stadium will receive an $86M "makeover as soon as the season ends." UC's renovation will "add premium seating ... and increase capacity from its current 35,000 to 40,000." UC is "betting that filling a 40,000-seat stadium and selling all those premium seats won’t be a problem" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 8/29).
In St. Paul, Marcus Fuller noted Minnesota officials have "done what they can to make sure they don't have an empty student section" for tonight's season opener against UNLV. All incoming UM freshmen -- about 6,000 in all -- "will receive free tickets," as will 2,000 transfer students. This is the "first time the Gophers have opened the season at home since the team moved" to TCF Bank Stadium in '09. UM Associate AD/Strategic Communications Chris Werle said that the school is "estimating attendance for Thursday's game at about 45,000." After selling out "every game during their first year in the new stadium, the Gophers struggled to maintain student interest under former coach Tim Brewster." UM "sold only 3,100 student season tickets for football" last year but have "sold 3,640 already this year" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/27).
DEVILS' ADVOCATE: In Phoenix, Jeff Metcalfe noted Arizona State will go into its season opener tonight against Sacramento State with a 95% renewal in season tickets and "better than" 230% increase in new season-ticket sales. That "equates to the athletic department already reaching its goal for season-ticket revenue." Meanwhile, student season ticket sales are up 19% "from last year’s record total." ASU has "sold out its ticket allotment for its game against Notre Dame" at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Oct. 5 (AZCENTRAL.com, 8/27).
KNIGHT MOVES: UCF Senior Associate AD/External Operations Zack Lassiter said that "season ticket sales are up seven percent." He added that about 1,000 more season tickets "have been sold this year than last ... though UCF will continue to sell season ticket packages through the South Carolina game on Sept. 28." Lassiter said that UCF has "specifically seen growth in its young alumni base." In Orlando, Paul Tenorio noted young alumni sales "are up" 400% from '12 (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 8/28).