A trend that has long been documented in the NFL is making its way to college football: more and more fans are spurning a Saturday at the stadium and choosing instead to stay at home and watch games on the couch.
Jon Solomon of AL.com reported yesterday that attendance figures were down throughout college football. Among the six power conferences, the Pac-12 was the only league to report increased attendance this fall. Not coincidentally, the Pac-12 is the only conference that plays a nine-game conference schedule and makes a league-wide effort to play home-and-home series with BCS foes. Across the board, BCS teams hosted an average of 45,724 fans per game, the lowest figure since 2003.
Meanwhile, college football's TV numbers continue to grow. The two highest-rated games of the season, the SEC Championship (9.8 rating, 16.2 million viewers) and Notre Dame at USC (9.4 rating, 16.1 million viewers) were the fifth and sixth-most watched regular season college football games in the last 20 years.
It's important to understand why this trend is happening. Part of it is simple fan economics. As more games pop up on television networks, fans feel they can get more out of their Saturdays at home watching six games instead of devoting a six-hour round trip to see one game. That's part of the world we live in.
But, as home entertainment improves by leaps and bounds seemingly every six months, schools need to think about meeting fans halfway. When a school charges the same amount for a ticket to see their team play Alabama and South Alabama, it's an easy decision for many fans.
Most importantly, though, is that if you noticed a slight increase in empty seats at your games this fall, remember that you're not alone.