SBD/August 29, 2013/College Football Preview

College Administrators Look For Ways To Combat Sagging Football Attendance

Schools in the SEC and elsewhere are looking to improve fan experience
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).
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