Cal football suffered a drastic year-to-year attendance drop this season after home games at California Memorial Stadium brought in an average of 36,548 fans per game — a 22 percent drop from last year’s average of 46,628.

… The drop in Cal football’s attendance comes as Cal Athletics faces huge interest payments from debt incurred by the 2012 renovation of Memorial Stadium and construction of its athletics complex. In total, Cal Athletics holds more than $400 million in debt, the most of any athletic department in the country.

… [One Berkeley student commented:] “If you see all these empty seats, you don’t feel a desire to go back.”

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4 Responses to “What would great public universities like Berkeley do without football?”

  1. Mr Punch Says:

    There are several things going on here. Football has inherent problems; “big-time” college athletics has endemic problems; TV money based on football traps Power 5 programs; etc. Berkeley, for 50 years, has been running what looks in some ways like an Ivy-type athletic program – lots of sports, championships in some minor ones, a few individual stars, last Rose Bowl win before WWII – but isn’t (and can’t be) really. The stadium rebuild, “necessitated” by seismic issues, was a catastrophic decision with adverse impact on academic units as well as the athletic department. To top it all off, the university has different names in sports (Cal) and academics (Berkeley), so even the supposed benefits of athletics are weakened. Now that the USMA teams are styled “Army West Point,” this is pretty much unique.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Mr Punch: Yes. I think the crucial catastrophe was the stadium rebuild.

  3. charlie Says:

    Excellent analysis, Mr. Punch. The football stadium buildout was delayed because protestors sat in ancient trees which were destroyed during construction. Those tree sitters were depicted as typical Bay Area nutjobs. But if anyone bothered to listen, they stated the project was a financial boondoggle. But the B School Boys looked better, so this bullshit got done. Shoulda left the trees live out their lives, kidees, your uni is in serious trouble…..

  4. MikeM Says:

    To be fair, not all of the $445 million of debt is due to the $321 million stadium renovation. There was also the $153 million Student-Athlete High Performance Center.

    As to why stadium renovation required that kind of money when Cal’s friendly rival across the bay was able to completely demolish and rebuild Stanford Stadium 5 years previous for a total budget of $90 million, well that’s another question entirely.

    You would also think $445 million would include restrooms for all, but you would be wrong. The west side of Memorial Stadium remains serviced by porta-potties, not as a nostalgic carryover from the predecessor facility, but due to constraints of the site. It is a lovely setting though.

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