The Univ. of Illinois football team this season "has averaged an announced attendance of 45,116, ninth in the Big Ten and on pace for its lowest average since 2006," according to Colleen Kane of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Kane notes empty seats at kickoff "have been commonplace in three home games, not an altogether new trend at Illinois." Actual attendance averaged "at least 10,000 fewer per game than the announced figures at a stadium with a capacity of 60,670." Attendance "became a hot button issue" for AD Mike Thomas when "figures declined in coach Ron Zook's final season." The early '12 numbers "don't speak well for interest in a new program that already has two ugly losses." Thomas made it clear that "winning is the only real cure to attendance woes, which probably won't be helped this season by the lack of big-draw opponents." Thomas said that the school has "implemented strategies to alleviate the problem, which Thomas said "has been marked by lower student and young alumni numbers this season." The school brought back "Street Fest before games and staged a country music concert before the Louisiana Tech game." Thomas also "pointed to a $6.7 million scoreboard and sound system for next season." But Kane writes the scoreboard "will do little to cure fan apathy" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/28).
The 0-4 Georgia State Univ. football team “has fallen behind other recent start-up programs in more than wins and losses,” according to Doug Roberson of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. Playing its third season of football, the team trails in “average home attendance, season-ticket sales and student attendance.” Georgia State “has averaged 13,298 fans this season through three home dates, punctuated by the program-worst 9,476 who showed up to watch Saturday’s loss to Richmond at the Georgia Dome.” The team’s attendance “has declined as losses have mounted.” Georgia State has lost four straight and 12 of the last 15, “underlining the issues that a school with an enrollment of 32,000 can have trying to attract interest in a team that’s not winning.” GSU President Mark Becker in an e-mail said, “College football is not a ‘build it and they will come’ proposition; winning matters.” The images of a mostly-empty Georgia Dome "may not be as troubling an issue as what the empty seats could mean for Georgia State’s FBS membership if attendance doesn’t increase.” The NCAA mandates that FBS teams have “an average home attendance of at least 15,000” once in a sliding two-year window. Georgia State is playing “an FCS schedule as it continues the first year of its two-year transition to FBS,” but its two-year window began this year. Failure to meet the minimum attendance number this year or next “could result in a 10-year probation for the school.” Failure to meet those same requirements within the probationary period “could result in a bowl ban.” Roberson noted “attendance isn’t a new issue for Georgia State, though it wasn’t as worrisome the previous two years because the Panthers weren’t playing on the FBS level.” GSU AD Cheryl Levick said, “We are building a base, that base keeps coming back. It won’t be long before this place is full.” Georgia State has sold 4,025 season tickets this year (AJC.com, 9/25).