Earlier this week, longtime college football reporter Tony Barnhart published a report on the growing concern among administrations regarding attendance at college football games.
It's not just at schools with terrible football traditions, it's everybody. At Alabama, just 69.% of student tickets were used and Georgia recently reduced the number of seats reserved for students by 2,000.
And students are the fans who actually live on campus.
Mississippi State estimated 60% of their fans drive 90 miles or further to attend games, and at a place like Arkansas, with the campus located in an extreme corner of the state, that's a similar factor we have to contend with.
We all know the benefits to staying home. For all the money you'd spend on donations, tickets, concessions, souvenirs, parking and everything else, you can buy one hell of a TV and speaker system. Bathrooms, food, drinks all easily accessible. If you want to have your computer or tablet open to twitter or a message board, you can. And with it easy to buy individual tickets for individual games on the secondary market, you can easily splurge on tickets to one or two big games and spend the same as you would for a full season ticket package.
The report even cites Kentucky students not attending a game in the rain because you can't text in the rain. As a fellow Millenial all I have to say is lol.
But if you've ever been to a game, particularly a big game, you know that nothing can compete with the communal experience of actually being there, and filling the stadium is an important way to send the message that there's excitement and support for the program.
So what do you think the school should do to make the games? Popular suggestions include:
- Improved WiFi. Let's face it. If you're reading this, there's a good chance you enjoy the Internet commentary on college football, whether via twitter, message boards, blogs or all of the above. People like to stay connected during the game and there's few things as frustrating as having a brilliantly witty comment pop in your head but can't get a connection in the stadium to share it. I speak from experience.
- Staggered pricing. Arkansas already does this on one level by charging more for conference games and more for Little Rock games. Should it be more dramatic? Would you pay, say ten extra dollars ($65) per SEC game in Fayetteville in exchange for ten few dollars for the non-conference games ($35)?
- Better access to other games. Now that college football is on TV all day on several channels on Saturdays, there's no way you can attend a game without missing something big going on in college football. When Arkansas rebuilt the Pig Screen last year, scores were more frequently updated throughout the game in the corner, but is that enough? What if the SEC agreed to a deal to show highlights from around the country in stadiums during timeouts?
- Alcohol and coke. Big uproar last year when Arkansas switched from Coke to Pepsi. And no one likes mixing Pepsi with the alcohol they sneak in. Would you go to more games if you could buy beer? I mean, does anyone actually watch a game at Buffalo Wild Wings for the wings? And it's harder to sneak beer in the stadium than liquor because beer goes quick.
- Parking/Shuttles. Most campuses I've ever been to are pretty flat. Arkansas is an exception. They don't call it The Hill for nothing. I actually think UA does a good job with the shuttle system, particularly before games. But after the game the lines can get really long, and unless you've got parking pass, you've likely got a long walk ahead of you. Is there anything the school can do to make this easier?
- Stadium music. We'll never reach consensus on this, other than we all think it should be better. All I know, and I've stated this before, the best stadium song that no one uses would be "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys.
But we'd love to hear from you. Do you go to all games? Do you stay home for all games? What can UA do to get you to attend more games in person? Leave an answer in the comments.
Doc Harper is the managing editor of Arkansas Expats and is a columnist for Sporting Life Arkansas and College Football News. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @doc_harper.