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Empty Seats An Issue Just About Everywhere

Across the nation and even across the SEC, ticket sales for college football games are declining.  And folks can’t just blame a bad economy anymore.  The economy is just one of several factors impacting ticket sales and it’s not as big a concern as it’s often made out to be:

 

1.  With the global economy stagnant, many people do not have as much disposable income to throw at football tickets as they once did.  That’s a fact.  But at schools where teams are winning and competing for championships, tickets sales are still mostly solid, if not robust.  That suggests that plenty of fans do have cash to spend… if they want to spend it.

2.  Prices continue to rise inside college venues.  For years, schools have tried to build bigger and bigger stadiums.  That’s meant ticket buyers have had to fight more traffic for fewer parking spots.  Now, for the privilege of slogging a country mile to a stadium and then being packed like a sardine into a tiny seat, the fan is rewarded with higher ticket prices, higher parking prices, and higher concession prices.  Why bother?

3.  Television is both a help and a hindrance to schools.  With the economy sluggish, the huge explosion in television revenue paid out to schools via network contracts couldn’t have come at a better time.  But there are also more games on television in a single weekend now than there were in entire seasons just 25 years ago.  Fans can choose to watch every game their favorite team plays on HDTV from the comfort of their living rooms and they can see dozens of other games, too.

4.  Schools scheduling patsies are paying a price for doing so.  There once was a time when the only way to see School X play Elon or Georgia State or Southeastern Louisiana was by purchasing a ticket.  Now those games are on pay-per-view or the internet, if not on some cable channel.  Why pay good money, fight traffic, and squeeze yourself between two other folks when you can stay home and watch your team demolish a tomato can of an opponent?  Mississippi State had the only SEC home opener that listed a capacity crowd last weeked and they played against tiny Jackson State.  But MSU’s Davis Wade Stadium seats just 55,082 fans.  Which brings us to the main point of this post…

 

At some point, a school that for years has tried to go bigger and bigger will decide to decrease seating size and focus instead on making the in-game experience better and better.  Oh, sure, several schools have knocked off 5,000 to 10,000 seats to make room for club seats, but we’re talking about real reductions in seating capacity.

Take NFL stadiums as an example.

Outside of the massive buildings that the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins call home, most NFL venues feature just 60,000 to 70,000 seats.  That makes parking easier.  That makes traffic lighter.  That makes tickets harder to come by (and thus more valuable).

NFL stadiums feature seats with actual backs, not bleachers.  They have massive scoreboards, wide concourses and the most luxurious of luxury suites.

At Cowboys Stadium, Jerry Jones has even built a field-level club through which his team walks to enter the field.  Big-spending fans can experience that up close and personal.  Television viewers cannot.

We’ve said this before and we’re saying it again now: Eventually some school’s leaders will be daring enough to downsize their home stadium, ramp up the in-game services and amenities, charge more for their tickets, and basically just target the biggest of spenders.  The little guy is already choosing to stay at home and watch on TV and save some cash.  Why chase him at all anymore?  Eventually a wise AD will realize that the little guy is no longer his target audience.  It’s the fat cat booster who’s willing to pay more for a bigger seat, easier parking, a nicer in-game experience, and the ability to tell his friends, “Yep, I was actually at the game.”

When ticket-buying goes back to being a status symbol, schools will have conquered the ticket-sales blues.  The best way to do that?  Cater to the uber-wealthy and go smaller — not bigger — with seating capacity.

Fair to the Average Joe who wants to take his son to a game?  No.  But a lot of Average Joes aren’t going to the games anymore anyway.

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Hogs, Aggies To Head Back To Arlington In 2014

The Texas A&M-Arkansas football rivalry will be moving back to Jerry Jones’ Cowboys Stadium in Arlington beginning in 2014.  The Razorbacks wanted the series to be continued in the Metroplex this year, but A&M officials wanted to get the game on campus so the Aggies would have at least six home dates in 2012.  Next year, the game will be played in Fayetteville before moving back to Arlington.

The series — which was played at Cowboys Stadium in 2009, 2010, and 2011 — is contracted to return to the domed behemoth of a venue from 2014 through 2024.

Jones, for those who don’t know it, owns the Dallas Cowboys and is a former Arkansas player.  And into his house, the Razorbacks and Aggies will soon return.

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Hogs, Aggies To Meet Home And Home Before Going Back To JerryWorld

The Southwest Classic between old SWC rivals and new SEC rivals Arkansas and Texas A&M will be moving back to Jerry Jones’ Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas in the future.  Supposedly.  But for the next two seasons, the Hogs and Aggies will do battle  on their own campuses.

This fall, Arkansas will visit Kyle Field in College Station.  In 2013, A&M will return the favor with a trip to Fayetteville.  By 2014, the plan is for the game to go back to the Dallas area, where it’s been played since 2009.  At least that’s the plan according to Arkansas spokesperson Kevin Trainor:

 

“After Texas A&M officially joined the Southeastern Conference, the Dallas Cowboys worked with both institutions to help address scheduling difficulties created for the Aggies with their entry into the SEC.  Discussions between both institutions and the Dallas Cowboys are ongoing and are focused on returning the series to Cowboys Stadium for the 2014 season and beyond.”

 

Jones is an Arkansas alum who knows full well that his school benefits from playing inside the Lone Star State in front of a bevy of Texas high school prospects.  The Razorbacks want to get the game back into the Dallas Metroplex.  In fact, they never wanted it to leave JerryWorld.

As for Texas A&M, well, that’s another story.  Now in the Southeastern Conference themselves, the Aggies would just as soon not give a rival like Arkansas a yearly passage into their recruiting turf.  Better to have the Hogs visit every other year and better to have those visits come to College Station, not to Cowboys Stadium.

We’ll have to wait and see how money and politics impact the final landing spot for what’s to become an annual SEC showdown. At the moment, it looks like two years on campus before a return to neutral ground.

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GQ Names LSU Fans Among Nation’s Worst

GQ magazine has put together a list of the 15 worst fanbases in America (though one, oddly enough, comes from Canada).  They’re talking about “bleacher creatures, bottle-throwers, couch-torchers, sexual harassers, projectile vomiters, and serially indifferent bandwagon-hoppers.”

Here’s their list:


15.  Los Angeles Lakers basketball
14.  Oregon Ducks basketball
13.  Wisconsin Badgers football
12.  Dallas Cowboys football
11.  Montreal Canadiens hockey
10.  LSU Tigers football
9.  New York Yankees baseball
8.  Duke Blue Devils basketball
7.  Penn State Nittany Lions football
6.  Boston Red Sox baseball
5.  Maryland Terrapins basketball
4.  Oakland Raiders football
3.  West Virginia Mountaineers all sports
2.  Philadelphia Eagles football
1.  Philadelphia Phillies baseball


So why LSU?  You can read the full explanation here.  We would give you a sampling here, but some of the language is too salty for our pages.  Let’s just say it has to do with drunken behavior, cursing, team bus attacks and spitting.  Nice.

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SEC Coaching Rumors – 1/13/11

Just a couple of quick updates regarding possible SEC coaching movement:

* The name of Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee continues to bubble up in the great cauldron of coaching rumors.  McGee interviewed with UConn, but it’s believed the Huskies will move in another direction.  Former Miami O-coordinator Mark Whipple was expected to be Connecticut’s choice, but reports now link Dallas Cowboys assistant and former Syracuse head coach Paul Pasqualoni to the job.  McGee is still a possibility at Tulsa, however.  Bobby Petrino confirmed yesterday that his assistant did interview for the head coaching job at that school on Wednesday.  FootballScoop.com reports that McGee will meet with Tulsa’s president today.  Former Tulsa offensive coordinator Chad Morris is believed to be the front-runner for the Golden Hurricane job.

* Tennessee receivers coach Charlie Baggett has been reported to be a candidate for the same position with the Dallas Cowboys.  Baggett served in that capacity with the Miami Dolphins under Nick Saban.  Also on that Dolphins staff?  New Dallas coach Jason Garrett.

* Former Florida and Urban Meyer assistant Chuck Heater is expected to join Steve Addazio’s staff at Temple as defensive coordinator.  Heater was safeties coach with the Gators and co-coordinator.

* We’ve gotten some emails regarding rumors that Vanderbilt’s James Franklin is interested in luring defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel from West Virginia.  It appears — as far as we can tell — that that talk has died down and that Casteel will remain in Morgantown.  WVU head coach Bill Stewart announced last week that his “coaching staff for 2011 is complete” and that Casteel would be “heading up our defense.”

* And former Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges is moving with Brady Hoke from San Diego State to Michigan.  Borges — the man who directed AU’s offense that last time the Tigers went undefeated back in 2004 — will serve as UM’s quarterbacks coach and O-coordinator.

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