On Wednesday morning, the SEC Network’s Tony Barnhart wrote a post about the top opening weekend games and how excited he is for them. He also noted that CBS Sports analyst Barrett Sallee said that fans will be even more excited than usual for college football to start since most fans weren’t able to attend games in person last season.
My friend @BarrettSallee made an interesting point. Said that fans will return to the stadiums with a high level of enthusiasm because they will never again take for granted the real joy of watching a game in person.— Tony Barnhart (@MrCFB) May 19, 2021
Since it’s the offseason and we are all starved for #content, this created a minor furor on CFB Twitter as people discussed whether or not they’d be “more excited” for this season and seeing games in person than in previous years.
I was a Wisconsin season ticket holder during my entire (lengthy) undergraduate career and then bought season tickets for five years after that with a large group of friends. My wife and I stopped getting season tickets after having a kid, and moving from Chicago to the Twin Cities, but we still like to try and get to one game a year because, well, we love Wisconsin football and tailgating and Camp Randall and the band and...you get the point.
Last season was weird, to see the least, for myriad reasons but one of the main ones, from purely an aesthetic standpoint, was the fact that there were basically zero fans watching the Badgers play all year. College football is a spectacle sport, more so than any other in the United States, and the product suffered for the lack of it.
Thousands of people stay after Wisconsin games are over to watch the band put on a concert, LSU fans arrive on Thursday afternoon to start tailgating for Saturday night games in Baton Rouge, Washington Husky fans sail up to the stadium in Seattle to “sail-gate,” the cheerleaders, the bands, the student section, the live animal mascots, the weird as hell traditions...they all make college football special and we missed every single one of them last year.
People are definitely going to be excited for the first week of this upcoming college football season and it sounds like most, if not all, schools around the country are going to be allowing close to 100% capacity in their stadiums. But...how long will that excitement last?
Maybe it'll be different in the SEC, but anywhere else, I think any athletic department that is budgeting for attendance to exceed say, 2018 levels, without doing anything to change stadium experience/marketing, will be in for an unpleasant surprise— Matt Brown (@MattBrownEP) May 19, 2021
Our former boss, and current Extra Points newsletter writer (which you should subscribe to, it’s great), Matt Brown brings up a pretty valid point. The in-stadium experience for a lot of college football stadiums isn’t the best and the at-home experience has continually gotten better.
At a lot of college stadiums, like Camp Randall, you can’t buy alcohol in the general seating area. At your house, the fridge is likely steps away from your couch. A lot of college football stadiums are older and don’t have the nicest bathrooms or most comfortable seating. At your house you have a, potentially, clean bathroom and a comfortable coach to sit on. The sight lines can be bad at the game while at home you have dozens of HD cameras showing you every possible angle of that Graham Mertz dime to Danny Davis. You can also change the channel at home to catch exciting moments from other games and you’re also able to use the internet much more easily at home instead of in a stadium with 80,000 other people trying to do the same.
Needless to say, you can see how many people choose to consume college football at home.
I was curious as to how Wisconsin fans were feeling about attending games heading into the season and I think we have a pretty good representation of the ardent UW fans with 473 respondents.
How many games are you planning on attending at Camp Randall next year (assuming there is no capacity limit)?— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) May 19, 2021
For those who can’t see the embedded tweet here are the percentage breakdowns of games fans are likely to attend this coming season:
0 games attended: 19%
1-3 games attended: 47.6%
4-6 games attended: 8.7%
all 7 games attended: 24.7%
These percentages kind of track with what Matt Brown was saying above about how fans will be excited for “maybe three weeks” to get back in the stadium and then “consumers are going to remember all of the reasons that kept them from going to games as much in the first place.”
I voted that I’ll be attending zero games this year. I plan on coming to Madison for a football weekend but between having two kids under five, most of my friends having kids of similar age and the overall hassle of actually going into the stadium, I am more than happy to go back to my buddy’s house and watch there.
Once my kids are older I will gladly take them to a game if they would like to go. As mentioned, I love the Badgers and the pomp and circumstance of Game Day in Madison. However, I will never buy season tickets again because there are just too many better reasons to stay home. I don’t know if this worries the athletic department as I don’t live in Wisconsin and thus they may not even consider me a likely candidate to purchase season tickets, but I had them while I lived in Chicago and for one year while I lived in the Twin Cities and I have multiple friends who did the same.
With a solid quarter of our poll respondents saying they’re going to all seven home games, and the reports that even during the pandemic 85% (88% if you count people taking a “gap year”) of the UW season ticket holders decided to renew their tickets in June of 2020, there is still an appetite for attending Wisconsin football games in person. Those numbers don’t even include the student section which, despite appearances during some games, sells out every year.
Sports are better with fans in the stadium, not a single person can deny that, will you be one of them in Madison this fall?