It was recently reported that attendance for the University of Louisville’s basketball team is on pace for lowest home attendance average since the 1980-81 season. Coming on the heels of the second straight year of declining attendance for football, people are starting to freak out and question fan loyalty.
To that I say, calm down. There are ways to skew the number to make things look better, or worse, than they really are. I’m not saying attendance isn’t declining, because it is – but it’s not just a UofL problem. It’s a national problem. And it’s about money.
First, most Universities estimate their announced attendance in their favor. It’s no secret. We have witnessed it for many years about 60 miles east (football) . This year, it was Louisville who clearly over estimated football attendance. Louisville announced over 49,000 at their home game vs Wake Forest. I was there and if there were more than 20,000 fans in their seats, I’ll eat a bug.
Second, attendance tends to get better during conference play (for basketball), so let’s just wait to see how poor this seasons attendance ends up being before we start freaking out. It will most likely be down overall, but that is expected – unlike football.
In 2016, Louisville football attendance increased nearly 5,000 per game. That was good enough for the 11th best increase in the country, I would think that would be the “Lamar effect.” But since that season, attendance has steadily declined.
Louisville’s football attendance decline is not an isolated event. It is a national trend as you can see from the chart below…
Average FBS football attendance since 2008
In basketball, Louisville ranked in the top 3 in attendance, averaging over 20,000 per game each of the last 8 years until last season, where Louisville finished in 6th place.
The NFL’s overall attendance was down slightly in 2018, falling 1.9 percent to 33.8 million from 34.5 million in 2017. MLB attendance has dropped 11 percent since 2008.
Why is attendance declining? My opinion is greed. The NCAA and it’s Universities, the NFL, MLB and almost every other sports organization, are charging outrageous ticket prices, concession prices, parking prices and team gear/memorabilia prices. They have finally made it too expensive for the average person. Those organizations have operated under the philosophy of “as long as people are willing to pay it, we will charge it.” Well, people have finally gotten to the point where the live game experience isn’t worth the price tag. People are watching at home on their 65 inch, HD televisions, drinking 6 beers for $6 (instead of $8 per beer) and not having to pay for parking. Not to mention paying 40 – 75 dollars for a ticket and in some cases, 10-15 dollar service charges on those tickets. The secondary market is jacking up ticket prices too…
I want to share my most recent basketball game experience. Let me start by saying that I make a decent living but I am by no means a wealthy man. I decided to take my family of 4 to the game against Robert Morris. I bought 4 tickets in the 2nd row of section 313. They listed at $15 each but with fees, my total was over $80. I paid $15 to park. My youngest son was scared because are seats were too high. My wife went to the concession stand where she purchased about $50 worth of stuff. She bought pizza, bread sticks, popcorn, bottled waters and a couple of beers. I made another trip back for more popcorn and waters.
The point of me telling you this is that I spent over $150, not counting gas to drive down to the arena, is just to remind you how expensive an average experience can be and that not every fan can afford it. Imagine if I did that for all 20 home games. That’s $3000 for an upper level view. I know we may have spent a bit much at the concession stand but I only had 1 beer. Keep in mind too, that ticket price was for Robert Morris and not an ACC opponent.
My alternative was to stay home in my basement and watch it on my big screen.
But I am a believer that there is no substitute for the live game experience – especially football. I attend every football game but there are only 6 games compared to the 20 for basketball.
So my plan for basketball is just pick 2 or 3 games a year that fit my schedule, buy tickets and get the full live game experience. The rest of the games will be enjoyed via the much cheaper option – at home.
I just want to point out that just because people don’t attend every game, it doesn’t make them any less of a fan. I want every game to be packed but I will never bash someone for not parting with their hard-earned money to attend a game that can be viewed in the comfort of their own home.
Also, once the teams start winning consistently, attendance will get back up to respectable levels. Scandal fatigue is a real thing but I believe we are almost past that. With the swag and excitement of Chris Mack, his first recruiting class, the potential of Scott Satterfield and positivity of the new University leadership, Louisville is on the right path. Attendance will trend back up but maybe not to the levels of the 2013 Championship run or the Lamar Heisman run. And I am OK with that.
As Always, GO CARDS!