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Sports Illustrated opens the new decade with a LONG article about tanking attendance at college football games.

We’ve been talking about that forever on this blog; but while everyone else sees it as a problem, we see it as intellectual progress.

Margaret Soltan, January 10, 2020 5:04PM
Posted in: sport

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7 Responses to “Sports Illustrated opens the new decade with a LONG article about tanking attendance at college football games.”

  1. Stephen Karlson Says:

    Gosh, you mean students might be enrolling at the state flagships for the academic rigor, not the game day and party experience? The horror!

    The correspondent didn’t get into the poorer quarters, such as the Mid-American Conference (several teams an easy drive from Columbus, Ohio, including Northern Illinois and several compass point Michigans you’ve remarked on) with its November football on school nights, in order to get ESPN coverage of empty aluminum benches in the stands slowly getting frosty.

  2. Ravi Narasimhan Says:

    I would take a close look at the rise in foreign student enrollment what with their sneaky preparation, drive, and work ethic taking away opportunities from honest American kids who just want to have a rounded college experience.

    The canaries aren’t the profiled schools worrying over “only 86K” in the stands. The rest are in the parking lot supporting the brand and making donations. The small to midsize schools trying to keep up in this bugnuts arms race are the ones in deep trouble.

    There does seem to be a bright future for “Risk managers” and “Communications directors.”

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Ravi: I think the big schools also need to sweat a bit on this one. They’ve made their coaches multimillionaires (and lost far more than that when they’ve fired them, been sued by them, and had to cough up pointless additional millions to multiple spurned coaches), turned the school into a joke/cheating machine, increasingly pissed off their state funders, and, as the article points out (this one on North Dakota State makes the same point), the now totally clear divide between winner and loser football schools (the losers being the ones Stephen mentions) means that people don’t show up for the games because their team always wins. It’s kind of embarrassing/boring/excruciating to watch your team yet again pull ahead by 50 points in the first quarter and go on to eviscerate the opposing team. So these are schools that have dedicated HUGE resources to athletics – money that could have been directed/coaxed to academics – and students aren’t coming to the games.

  4. Ravi Narasimhan Says:

    While I am generally sympathetic to your argument, this specific article focuses on relatively few empty seats in undesirable sections of otherwise full stadiums. So long as the tickets are sold at the football schools – which they seem to be – who cares if people, especially students, come? They will soon electronically fill in the gaps and no one will be the wiser. College football has just become Facebook. The cool kids moved elsewhere once the old people took over.

    Check out


    for comments from the still faithful – school logo attached to each screenname. They aren’t enamored by the stadium experience any longer. With everything optimized for tv, they’d rather stay home and watch competitive games (plural) on tv while getting inexpensively drunk with friends. These paragons have not only graduated but have reproduced and don’t want to spend huge amounts of money and time taking spouse and babies to games where there’s heat, humidity, airport security (hardest on mothers, of course), insufficient and overpriced food, and lack of toilets. Getting decent seats also means an annual baksheesh to the athletic department on top of ticket and travel costs. The commitment to football is still there in spades and, as the article said, no one is concerned about CTE or the scholastic vitality of the players. I doubt any would blink an eye at the salaries of coaches. There’s just no reason to go to all that effort to watch their team steamroll patsies.

    State funders are much more easily honked off by insufficiently deferential academics. You’ve featured a few of these. Waves of California legislatures have shredded the UC system over the last 40+ years and it had little to do with athletics. Yes, this money could be redirected into academics but with a few exceptions like Stanford, donors want to give only to sports. I am leaving out the Harvards and MITs since their athletics are in a different cost category.

  5. charlie Says:

    What the article doesn’t mention is that university enrollment has been falling every year beginning in 2011.


    Apparently, the probability that growing numbers of teenagers would eventually realize that tuition is too damn high never was a consideration for uni bright lights. Keep in mind, nearly all P5 unis use the business model that a prominent football team will increase enrollment, no matter the price of attendance. Admins and BOTs had eight years of data showing the opposite. Either they’re idiots, or they don’t work for students, or the public. You decide…

  6. Stephen Karlson Says:

    Charlie, that business model might not deliver what the administrators want. A few years ago Northern Illinois (I retired from there five years ago) went to the Orange Bowl. Yes, applications increased in the immediate aftermath, but those applicants were weaker than the matriculants prior to the football accomplishment, such as it was.

  7. charlie Says:

    Stephen, your post sparked a memory of admin justification for going into debt for amenities building. According to those functionaries, if potential admits don’t have climbing walls, spas, granite counter tops, and sushi availability, they ain’t showing up. Questions asked should be why in hell are you pandering to a spoiled, entitled bunch of teenagers? What will those brats bring to classroom? Since when should the public subsidize a four to six year stay at a resort/day care for young adults?

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