Changes needed to address declining football attendance


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

Amidst some uncertainty as to the effects that recent and looming court decisions involving the NCAA will have on college sports, college football is facing another challenge in declining student attendance.

On Aug. 25, a Wall Street Journal analysis showed attendance at games had dropped 7.1 percent since 2009, even at big schools where football has traditionally been popular.

There are a number of reasons for the changes. Though some cite the lack of cell phone service in stadiums and the ease of watching games on television, the biggest culprits are likely rising ticket prices and a growing lack of competitive balance in games.

Colleges are already improving some of these issues, including providing better cell service, but the real need for colleges and the NCAA is to address the question of competition among teams and attempt to find ways to create simpler, more affordable ticket options for students.

Increasingly, teams are using the opportunities they have to schedule non-conference games that result in easy wins, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The reasons competition is needed are obvious. Having more competitive games creates a more engaging experience for fans.

In the coming years, it will be interesting to see how the new playoff system will affect competition. Part of the judgment criteria used by the selection committee includes an emphasis on strength of schedule.

Though Appalachian was not one of the teams examined by the Wall Street Journal, we appear to be doing fairly well on attendance.

Appalachian had an average of 27,964 attendees per game during the 2012-13 season, a number which put the university in the top for Division 1 FCS schools, according to the 2012-13 Appalachian Athletics Annual Report.

In part, we can probably thank the simplicity of the attendance policy which only requires students to swipe App Cards for entry.

There are naturally areas for improvement, of course. Appalachian does not have a particularly strong strength of schedule this year, placing 111 out of 128 on the NCAA’s strength of schedule rankings.

Those involved with college football must continue to make decisions that help motivate students to attend games.

For all the controversy surrounding the role of athletics in college life, they are important outlet for entertainment and building community. Colleges owe it to students to work to make attending the games worthwhile.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.