For the fourth straight year Florida football attendance declined in 2014. Last season the Gators averaged 85,834 or 96.9% of capacity, a full 2% decline from 2013. While overall attendance at college football games declined in 2014, the Southeastern Conference saw an increase of 2,020 fans per game and once again led all conferences in average attendance at 78,018.
Florida is one of only four teams in the league that saw a decrease – South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt were the other three. South Carolina finished 2014 at 7-6, its worst season since 2009. Kentucky (5-7) had another losing season and Vanderbilt (3-9) returned to earth after a school record three consecutive bowl seasons.
The lack of fans in the stands has been a disturbing trend for the Gators the last four years. Part of that has to do with the lack of winning – Florida was 29-21 during that stretch – but a lack of offensive imagination contributed mightily. You can get away with a boring offense if you win 11 games a year but the 11-2 record of 2012 was Will Muschamp’s only bright spot. Take that season away and the Gators were 18-19.
When Jeremy Foley pulled the plug on Muschamp and went after an offensive guru of a head coach in Jim McElwain, it was a clear signal that Florida’s athletic director fully understands that he’s losing big bucks when The Swamp is less than packed. Official capacity is 88,548 so when there are 2,700 empty seats it represents at least $150,000 in revenue when you add in concessions, program and merchandise sales that are all part of the game day experience. Now multiply that by seven and it’s more than $1 million lost over the course of an entire season. An offensive-minded coach who will put an entertaining product on the field should help lure back the fans. It’s a tossup whether Florida fans would rather sit through a 14-7 loss or a 38-35 loss where they spent an entire game on their feet and the offensive fireworks only ended because the clock ran out in the fourth quarter.
There are a couple other factors that have to be considered, however. One is an economy that continues to stagnate and forces fans to decide if they really can afford to make that trip to Gainesville seven weekends a year. It’s not cheap to travel from a place like Fort Myers or West Palm Beach or the Panhandle for a ball game. Add booster fees to the cost of tickets, gas, food and a hotel room and multiply that times seven. It’s enough of a cost that some folks are electing to give up their tickets and stay home to watch on their big screen television with high definition.
A 60-inch high definition television can make palatable the idea of staying at home where the food is better and you don’t have to stop drinking beer for four hours. Nor do you have to worry if you’ve had one too many since you don’t have to drive. Not only do high def televisions (and wait until you see a football game in the new ultra-high definition) give you marvelous close ups and ongoing commentary and analysis, but you (a) have a more comfortable seat; (b) don’t have to miss a few minutes of the game if you have to get up to use the bathroom; (c) you don’t have to wait in line for either food or the bathroom; and (d) you have 2.5 minutes to channel surf and catch up on other ball games every time there is an official time out.
Perhaps winning and a better offense will reverse the downhill trend in attendance, but Foley and every other athletic director in the SEC knows that the battle is on to keep fans in the stands.
1. Texas A&M, 104,909 (+21%)
2. LSU, 101, 723 (+11%)
3. Alabama, 101,534 (+1%)
4. Tennessee, 99,754 (+4%)
5. Georgia, 92,746 (0)
6. Auburn, 87,451 (+2%)
7. Florida, 85,834 (-2%)
8. South Carolina, 81,381 (-1%)
9. Arkansas, 66,521 (+8%)
10. Missouri, 65,285 (+3%)
11. Ole Miss, 61,547 (+4%)
12. Mississippi State, 61,127 (+10%)
13. Kentucky, 57,572 (-3%)
14. Vanderbilt, 34,258 (-4%)
2. Clemson, 80,176 (-2%)
3. Virginia Tech, 61,157 (-4%)
4. North Carolina, 54,667 (+6%)
5. North Carolina State, 54,667 (+2%)
6. Louisville, 52,972 (+1%)
7. Miami, 52,197 (-2%)
8. Georgia Tech, 48,519 (-1%)
9. Pittsburgh, 41,315 (-17%)
10. Syracuse, 40,447 (+6%)
11. Virginia, 39,320 (-15%)
12. Boston College, 34,270 (+4%)
13. Duke, 27,291 (+5%)
14. Wake Forest, 27,120 (-4%)
1. Ohio State 106,296
2. Texas A&M 105,123
3. Michigan 104,909
4. LSU 101,723
5. Penn State 101,623
6. Alabama 101,534
7. Tennessee 99,754
8. Texas 94,103
9. Georgia 92,746
10. Nebraska 91,249
11. Auburn 87,451
12. Florida 85,834
13. Oklahoma 85,162
14. Florida State 82,211
15. Clemson 81,752
Florida’s softball team begins its quest for a repeat national championship today when the Gators host an NCAA Regional that features Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic and Hofstra. As regionals go, this isn’t exactly a tough one for the 50-6 Gators. Florida should wrap this up with a 3-game sweep that will allow them to host a Super Regional next week against the winner of the South Bend (Notre Dame) Regional. If there is a concern, it is that the Gators might not face any tough competition until Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series. Expect Florida coach Tim Walton to get as much work as possible for young pitchers Alex Ocasio and Delanie Gourley while letting Lauren Haeger rest up. Haeger has lost her last two games and gave up a few homers late in the season, a sign that perhaps she’s got a tired arm, so as many innings as Walton can get out of Ocasio and Gourley this weekend will help Haeger prep for Oklahoma City, where she’s going to have to be at her best.
Not only did former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden say that Jameis Winston had been an embarrassment to FSU the last two years when he appeared on the Paul Finebaum Show but he threw in something Florida fans have known all along – that the Seminoles took the easy way out when they joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. As weak as the ACC was during the dynasty years when FSU finished in the top four for 14 consecutive seasons, the Seminoles rarely had more than one or two tough games to prepare for, which certainly made national title runs a whole lot easier.
“I felt that it was too difficult to win through the SEC to win a national championship,” Bowden explained to Finebaum. “I felt like our best route would be to go through the ACC and that did prove out to be correct. But, I don’t know if we could have made it through the SEC.”
The New England Patriots are not going to take the suspension of Tom Brady, the $1 million fine and the loss of two draft picks lying down. Owner Robert Kraft fired back with a 20,000-word rebuttal of the Ted Wells report about what has been called “Deflate-Gate” and Brady hired an attorney to appeal his suspension.
The Wells Report, from which the NFL reached its conclusions and disciplinary decisions, relies heavily on circumstantial evidence. There is no smoking gun that directly links Tom Brady to a conspiracy to deflate footballs so he could grip them better in the cold weather before a Patriots playoff game with the Indianapolis Colts. Brady’s refusal to cooperate with the NFL investigation probably played a large role in the suspension and discipline. There is the general feeling that if Brady were truly innocent he would have jumped at the opportunity to cooperate and clear his name. That he did not gives the appearance of guilt.
But Brady says he’s innocent and Robert Kraft believes him so they are more than willing to fight back. When you consider the NFL’s rotten record in handling highly publicized cases recently (see Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Ray McDonald for starters), it would appear that the NFL better have something more than circumstantial evidence if it wants to make the discipline stick.
Does a big screen television with high definition and saving all the money you would spend to come to Gainesville for a game factor into your decision whether or not to buy or renew season tickets?
When the Beach Boys released their “Pet Sounds” album in 1966 it wasn’t well received by the American public (#10 on the Billboard album charts). Overseas, it was a different story. The worldwide press declared it was one of the most technologically advanced albums ever and the musical public couldn’t get enough of the intricate harmonies and musical arrangements. The American public eventually warmed up to the album, which makes nearly every important list of the 100 greatest albums of all time.