Why is attendance falling for bowl games and for college football and bowl games?
That’s a bit simplistic.
The home viewing experience is significantly better than it was 10 years ago but TV cannot replicate the gameday experience, it provides a different experience from attending. Other factors must be at play.
The cost of attending has changed over the years. Not only have ticket prices gone up the associated costs have risen as well. At many schools a season ticket cannot be purchased without a mandatory donation to the booster club, while at others such as Arkansas State, mandatory donations are only required for certain seating areas but they increase the cost of attendance for those wanting to sit in those seats.
Additionally, most college teams play more home games than they used. AState typically played five home games when the NCAA permitted 11 games in a season with a few six game seasons. Many high resource conference teams play seven and even eight home games.
Finding data on historic ticket prices proved to be a bit difficult but the great thing about the internet is someone’s hobby may just provide some useful information. In this case, it was a web site that is devoted to Georgia Tech ticket stubs, decades and decades worth.
Thanks to the photos there I had prices for Georgia Tech games going back decades. So what I did I was look at the price of the Georgia Tech vs. Clemson game starting in 1966 and working forward a decade at a time. Georgia Tech no longer puts the price on tickets but the 2016 football ticket release was still on-line.
Most of these games were at Georgia Tech and they make for a nice look at prices. The Yellow Jackets don’t sellout all their games so the school’s ability to raise ticket prices is restricted compared to the more popular P5 schools. Georgia Tech is consistently outside of the top half of the Power 5 in attendance so that also means restricted demand limits their ability to raise prices.
They work nicely for this exercise simply because it isn’t skewed by the extremely popular programs living in the stratosphere of support and able to raise prices with less fear of losing ticket buyers.
I’ve listed each game with the face ticket price, followed by the price adjusted to inflation to 2016 prices and then after that the number of hours the median household would have had to work to make enough money to purchase one ticket.
1966 Georgia Tech vs. Clemson $6 ($44.70) (2.04 hours)
1976 Georgia Tech vs. Clemson $8 ($33.93) (1.46 hours)
1986 Georgia Tech vs. Clemson $18 ($39.64) (1.60 hours)
1996 Georgia Tech vs. Clemson $20 ($30.77) (1.19 hours)
2006 Georgia Tech vs. Clemson $48. ($57.47) (2.10 hours)
2016 Georgia Tech vs. Clemson $65 $65) (2.39 hours )
In 1996 when tickets were cheaper in the amount of household earnings a ticket cost, four tickets would have required working 4:45 just over half a day and 11% of a week’s pre-tax pay. This year’s game would have required an entire day’s pay plus an hour and half of another day, basically 24% of a week’s pre-tax earnings.
Watching football may look good on a 60 inch 4k TV but I suspect that for many that television became a better option AFTER they saw the price of a ticket rather than just ruling out the idea of going because they have a nice television.