Dropping attendance at college football games is alarming athletic directors. And the biggest drops are in the biggest football markets.
In 2018 the Big Ten Conference had its lowest average attendance in 25 years. And attendance is on track to be worse this year.
The problem is particularly noticeable in the Pac-12, where they had 250,000 less fans in their stadiums in 2018 than the year before.
Even attendance in the SEC is down 100,000 from 2017 to 2018. Here's the data:
For the second year in a row the Pac-12 title game in 68,500-seat Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California is expected to be only half full. The ADs throughout the conference were questioned as to why this is happening. They cited many factors: rising ticket prices, late kick-offs, other competing activities, market saturation, and large-screen TVs
The consensus among Pac-12 ADs, however, focused on game times being too late at night.
"Last month, Oregon was assigned a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at home against Arizona. That announcement sparked the public ire of Mullens and drew loud criticism from fed up UO fans."
"Oregon isn’t alone. Three times this season Utah has kicked off a game at 8 p.m. local time. Utes AD Mark Harlan said: 'There’s no question it’s caused a lot of damage.' At the end of the 2018 season, Utah prepared for a non-conference home game on Nov. 24 against in-state rival BYU. Despite forecasts of a snowstorm, FS1 took control of the broadcast and set the kickoff in Salt Lake for 8 p.m.... 'It’s tough, you can’t have a 10-year-old out at 10:30 at night in a snowstorm.'”
"UCLA’s home attendance this season (43,848) is the lowest at the Rose Bowl since it moved to the venue in 1982... Pac-12 insiders believe late kickoffs have hurt attendance in Pasadena."
"'The competition of a widescreen TV at home is real,” said Washington State AD Pat Chun. The core of Washington State’s fan base commutes to Pullman, Wash. from more than 100 miles away on game days. The same can be said of the core group of Oregon and Oregon State fans... Late in the 2018 season, for example, WSU was assigned a 7:30 p.m. kickoff for a home game against Arizona. Donors, sponsors and the fan base collectively groaned."
Well, so much for "prime time" on the West Coast.