MrSEC, it would be helpful to fully understand the impact and analysis of this issue if you had an article with some numbers attached to the attendance figures. Such as average face value of tickets (now vs 15 years ago), average cost for season tickets purchased thru the University (booster contribution plus cost of tickets to get tickets), and so on for each school.
As we noted earlier today, the University of Florida — fresh off an 11-win season and BCS bowl trip — is still a tad behind last year’s tally of football tickets sold. If the Gators fail to match last year’s average attendance, it will mark the fourth consecutive drop in attendance for one of the SEC’s premier programs.
Below is a quick look at the average attendance numbers for each current SEC school from 2009 through 2012, according to the NCAA’s official figures. Obviously, there have been stadium overhauls, capacity increases and decreases, some good home schedules and some bad, some positive seasons for SEC squads and some poor. Coaching changes and economic factors also play a role in ticket sales. So to does the increase in televised games.
Still, this is a pretty good bird’s-eye view of what’s going on in terms of SEC football attendance. The schools are listed in order of their average attendance over the full four-year span:
|School||2012 Avg.||2011 Avg.||2010 Avg.||2009 Avg.||4-Year Avg.|
The underlines represent a drop in average attendance from the previous season. You’ll note that eight of the SEC’s 14 schools saw a dip (for one reason or another) last fall. Three schools have seen two drops out of a possible three during that span: Tennessee, Auburn, and Vanderbilt. And two schools — Florida and Kentucky — have seen their average attendance drop for three straight years.
(Keep in mind that these attendance figures represent tickets sold, not actual turnstile attendance. Take into account the number of people not showing up and not paying for concessions, merchandise and parking and you’re talking about an even bigger drop in revenue at most schools.)
As a whole, the SEC still easily leads the nation’s conferences in attendance. Those overall school-by-school numbers would please a whole lot of athletic directors at a whole lot of schools. But there’s a reason the conference has put together a task force charged with finding ways to improve the in-stadium experience at schools across the SEC. That reason becomes clear when you look at the chart below:
|2012 Avg. SEC||2011 Avg. SEC||2010 Avg. SEC||2009 Avg. SEC|
For two straight autumns, SEC average attendance has dropped. That’s the kind of storyline that forces ADs, presidents and conference commissioners to start asking questions and searching for solutions. That said, there are at least two ways to look at every issue. On the one hand, economic factors and a more finicky sports fan are making it harder and harder for schools to sell out their home football games. On the other, the league is still way up in attendance over where it was 15 years ago.
Here are the attendance numbers for the 14 current members of the SEC from 1998, the first season of the BCS system. For comparison, we’ve included each school’s most recent four-year average. The schools are listed alphabetically:
|School||1998 Avg.||2009-12 Avg.||Difference|
|Miss. State||37,385||55,092||Up 10,000+|
|Ole Miss||46,092||56,304||Up 10,000+|
|Texas A&M||58,293||83,368||Up 10,000+|
As you can see, Tennessee is the only school that has a lower average attendance figure now than it did in 1998. But just as other schools have added seats, UT actually did away with several thousand seats in order to create more club and box seats. That’s a trend that we at MrSEC.com expect to see continue across the country.
As attendance boomed in the 1990s, expansion projects were the big fad. But by the economic downturn and HDTV boom of the late-2000s, attendance began to decline inside most of the new monster facilities. Faced with unused seats and the prospects of continued drops in tickets sold, more schools will likely follow Tennessee’s lead and shave seats by the thousands to make room for pricier luxury seating options.
On the whole, SEC attendance — including Missouri and Texas A&M to create a fair comparison — has jumped from 937,818 in 1998 to 1,054,560 in 2012. A casual observer might look at those numbers and calmly state, “All’s well.” That’s the glass half full approach. While numbers have dropped in many areas recently, overall, things are better than they were 15 years ago.
But the folks in leadership positions across the SEC aren’t casual observers. They run businesses. And they take the glass half empty approach. They’ve see two straight years of declining ticket sales and they’ve created a “fan experience” committee to try and reverse the trend.
That’s the wise approach.