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College Football Attendance Sees Decline in 2017


According to newly released numbers, a FBS college football attendance decline in 2017 marked the second-largest drop ever, and the largest since 1983. 

New numbers from the NCAA measure attendance across the 129 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams from the 2017 season. What the figures show is that the per-game average attendance in 2017 was 42,203 fans, a decline of 1,409 fans per game from 2016. That is the second largest decline since the NCAA began tracking attendance in 1948, and the largest since a drop of 1,527 fans per game from 1982 to 1983.

Certain factors could be coming into play, such as the number of programs with smaller fan bases and stadium capacities joining the FBS ranks. In addition, officials at various programs are still working to navigate some of the challenges presented to the experience of watching a game in person, including improved technology that may make more fans inclined to stay home. However, another shift could come in stadium renovations, as schools consider reducing their capacities to create a more comfortable gameday experience and place a higher premium on tickets. More from

One Power Five source suggested the NFL and MLB have been much more proactive in downsizing stadiums to create a more premium ticket.

Arizona State, Kentucky, North Carolina and Penn State are all in the process of downsizing stadiums. In marketing circles, that creates a more intimate experience. Marketers continue to struggle to find a successful balance in stadiums. Across all leagues, that means making the game experience as close to that living room experience as possible.

AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta have created in-house lounges so extravagant it’s actually better watching on a cinema-quality screen with drink in hand than stepping out to view the real thing a few feet away.

“Does the experience and cost outweigh the convenience of watching it at home?” asked Brian Cockerham, vice president of PrimeSport, which sells travel and ticket packages to pro and college events. “That is why you are seeing several schools decrease capacity and [others] look to decrease capacity and look to increase the experience and amenities.”

The trend of downsizing stadiums has been unfolding across college football over the last several years, and is reflected in some ongoing renovation projects. Arizona State has been working on a Sun Devil Stadium renovation over the last several years that will lead to a reduction in seating capacity–that project is set to be complete in 2019–and USC has started a series of improvements that will lead to a smaller capacity at the Coliseum. This comes as programs place less emphasis on packing as many fans into the stadium as possible, and instead look to offer a more comfortable environment that places a stronger priority on premium seating.

Photo courtesy BYU.

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August Publications