It was a great year for college football on television. CBS, ESPN and Fox were all up, in many cases significantly. A dozen games topped 7 million viewers, and on the whole viewership was up 6 percent year over year.
That story does not continue to in-person attendance, however.
According to the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, attendance for SEC games fell to its lowest point since 2011. From the paper:
The SEC averaged 72,735 fans in those 102 games in 2019. That’s a decrease of 2,282 from last season, and the conference’s lowest total since 2001, when it averaged 72,130.
The fall of 2,282 fans per game represents a 3 percent drop from 2018 and a 7 percent drop from just five seasons prior.
In raw numbers, the SEC drew 82,761 fewer fans than 2018 despite hosting two additional games.
Unsurprisingly, Arkansas and Ole Miss saw the largest individual drops, contributing factors that led to the firings of Chad Morris and Matt Luke.
“Issues related to attendance are not unique to college sports,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told the paper. “There are challenges that are common across sports, college and professional, such as viewing options through enhanced at-home and mobile technology and a new generation of fans with a changing set of attendance habits.”
Though the SEC was the first conference to have its 2019 attendance publicly X-rayed, it will not be the last. The conference has long been the standard bearer for league-wide attendance, and it’s likely we’ll see that the SEC’s drop was the least-bad across major college football.