The Problem with College Football: It's Boring and Costs Too Much


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — With college football kickoff weekend looming, fans are tapping their social connections and making their tailgating plans. But more and more – especially among younger fans -- those game day festivities will be centered around B-Dubs rather than being in the stands. Stadiums are full of well-healed alumni, media and product placements while student sections shrink.

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In a new study conducted by the Wall Street Journal, student attendance is reported down by more than 7% since 2009.

Big Ten powerhouse Michigan has notched the most wins in college football history but faces declining student attendance, too – from 21,000 in 2012 to a projected 13-14,000 this year. The Wolverine athletic department has blamed the decline on spotty cell phone coverage, though a recent student survey pointed to entirely different problem: new general admission stadium seating keeps students from being able to sit with their friends.

"Instead of seating the students by class — with the freshmen in the endzone and the seniors toward the fifty, as they had done for decades – last year it was first come, first served. (They also raised the price to $295 for seven games, up from $195 for six games the year before.) The idea was to encourage students to come early, and come often. Thousands of students responded by not coming at all," writes blogger John Bacon.

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Add to that $6 hot dogs, $5 popcorn and $4 water, and the economics of a home-based 60-inch flatscreen and a drive-through bucket of wings come squarely into play.

"Fans are fed up paying steakhouse prices for junk food opponents — and junk food itself — while enduring endless promotions," Bacon says. "The more college football caters to the TV audience at home, the more fans paying to sit in those seats feel like suckers."

Bacon also blames long ticket lines and TV timeouts.

"Because every game is televised, ticket holders endure about twenty commercial breaks per game, plus halftime. That adds up to more than 30 minutes of TV timeouts – about three times more than the 11 minutes the ball is actually in play," he says.

Sports analysts have also pointed to technology gaps in stadiums. In addition the fact that stadiums have cellular load issues, most stadiums don't have Wi-Fi, rendering smart phones dumb. Without texts, Instagram and Twitter, college students are digitally dysfunctional.

And bored fans – even if they do bother to show up – are likely to leave early.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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