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Volume 25 No. 133

Colleges

A banner flying over the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday implored Swann to make a change
Photo: getty images

USC AD Lynn Swann for the most part has "lived a sun-kissed and celebrated existence" since taking the role in '16, but that "all changed on Sunday, as Swann went against the wishes of both his fan base and the logic of recent history by keeping Clay Helton" as the school's football coach, according to Pete Thamel of YAHOO SPORTS. Swann "didn't hire Helton and has rarely showed any public affinity for having him as the coach." But Swann is now "stuck in lockstep with Helton in the wake of this 5-7 season, which puts him squarely in the crosshairs of a controversy born of his administrative ineptitude and lack of experience." For Swann, that means a "new role -- unpopular administrator with a fan base simmering with an anger level destined to manifest itself through attendance apathy." Swann's first major decision has "backfired spectacularly," as he "bid against himself this winter to keep Helton and extended him through 2023, showing no feel for the market nor particular care for USC's budget." Fans in L.A. have a "plethora of sports teams and can vote with their wallets" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/25). In California, Joey Kaufman notes prior to USC's season finale on Saturday against Notre Dame, an airplane flew above campus and the L.A. Coliseum "towing a banner that read, 'Lynn Swann -- Please Fire Clay Helton!'" If there was "frustration among fans, there were also signs of apathy." Attendance at the Coliseum this season was the lowest since the '87 season, and USC "never drew above 60,000 for a game" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 11/26).

OUT OF TOUCH? In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes Swann "doesn't seem to understand the basic role" of an AD or the "modern soul of USC." In "failing to make a change in leadership after the Trojans' worst season in nearly 20 years and with the program at one of its lowest ebbs ever, Swann took the easy way out by keeping Helton, almost as if he had no real plan and no desire to dirty his hands concocting one." In "completely ignoring the scores of invested boosters who were demanding a change, Swann also showed a lack of appreciation for the passion that has helped fuel not only the greatness of the football program, but the success of the entire university." The program is "in freefall, yet he's not grasping the gravity of the situation" (L.A. TIMES, 11/26).

UM's average announced attendance was 37,914, its lowest since '92
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Minnesota's announced football crowd numbers this fall "showed some of the steepest declines in the nation," as TCF Bank Stadium was "less than half full for five of the team’s seven home games," according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. UM's average announced attendance was 37,914, its lowest since '92. That total is announced attendance, or tickets distributed, "not the actual number of tickets scanned at the turnstiles." The official scanned ticket numbers "show the Gophers’ actual average attendance was 22,656." Three years ago, the average announced attendance was 52,355, "all but filling the stadium that whole season." That average has dropped 14,440 since '15 (STARTRIBUNE.com, 11/23).

HOME AWAY FROM HOME: In Texas, Cherry & Werner noted the crowd of 27,308 for Baylor's 35-24 win over Texas Tech on Saturday "marked the smallest turnout" of the games played between the two teams at AT&T Stadium since '09. It also was the "third straight year that attendance had decreased, after crowds of 41K and 34K" in '16 and ’17, respectively. Baylor and Texas Tech "topped more than 50,000 in attendance in all but one ['12 -- 44,168] of the first six meetings" at AT&T. In October, the programs "announced that the series would return to on-campus sites" for '19 (Waco) and '20 (Lubbock) (WACOTRIB.com, 11/25).

FOLLOW THE LEADER: Missouri coach Barry Odom last Thursday "told fans he'd pay for their tickets if they didn't have a way to attend" the home finale against Arkansas on Friday. In St. Louis, Dave Matter noted the school's ticket office then "opened the phone lines and took orders under the Odom special, offering free general admission seats priced at $25" through Tuesday afternoon. MU took orders for 5,537 tickets, which "adds up to $138,425 on the head coach's tab." MU has "seen a dramatic drop in crowd size the last three years, and, in turn, a drop in ticket revenue, which greatly impacts the athletics department's bottom line." Heading into Friday's game, MU ranked 32nd nationally in average attendance at 51,297 fans per home game. From '08-14, MU "ranked between 22nd and 28th in attendance, never dipping below 61,000 for a season's average crowd" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 11/23).

The Univ. of Maryland this football season "paid a total of $28,000 in scholarship money to students for attending games and staying until the fourth quarter" in an attempt to"boost student turnout," according to Jay Cannon of USA TODAY. For several seasons, UMD has "struggled to fill the student section at Maryland Stadium." Prior to this season, one "motivated" donor, whose identity remains anonymous, "approached the school with an idea to incentivize students to not only attend games but also stay at them." As a result of the donor’s funding, one student was "randomly selected to win a scholarship of at least $5,000 in the fourth quarter of every home game this season." The catch was that he or she "had to enter the stadium prior to kickoff and stay until the fourth quarter to be eligible for the prize." Another donor, "inspired by the original giveaway idea, offered to give a $1,000 scholarship in the third quarter of every home game, starting with the Terrapins’ Sept. 22 home date with Minnesota" (USATODAY.com, 11/23).