Back in August, I wrote an article outlining the ways athletic departments were preparing for the impending football season, many schools’ biggest money-maker of the year and a time they could not afford to get wrong.
Recently, there have been stories regarding attendance-boosting extras those programs offered at the beginning of the year to entice fans off their couches and to their local campuses, and they’ve not all been positive. One of the means that colleges have employed this season to attract attendees is having live concerts with popular performers either before, after, or even during the games. Unfortunately, this has not gone flawlessly for all schools involved. For example, this past week saw Alabama State have to cancel its planned Homecoming performance under surprising circumstances. Lil Wayne, who was advertised as being the entertainment for ASU’s Homecoming week, was never actually booked to play at the school. Instead, it appears the university was scammed by a third-party promoter who never had the power to book the rapper in the first place. While seemingly the first time this season a concert was promoted without the artist’s knowledge or consent, it is far from the only occurrence where a performer has had to back out of an obligation, leaving a university in a less-than-optimal position despite its efforts.
Despite the occasional concert snafu however, whatever the schools are doing seems to be working better than in previous years. According to CBS Sports, attendance through week five at college football games grew for the first time in four seasons. Although only showing a modest increase of 1% versus the previous year, ADs must be pleased to have stopped the trend of declining attendance that had been prevalent in prior seasons.
Interestingly, the University of Iowa, which was mentioned in my prior article as trying to find innovative ways to bring people to its home games, suffered its lowest opening attendance of the past twelve years. It would seem the gimmicks were not enough to counteract a poor close to last season. There is good news, however, for programs that are having difficulty breaking the attendance malaise. The recent Iowa versus Minnesota game sold out at Kinnick, seemingly in direct contradiction to the way the season appeared it would unfold. The difference? Iowa is off to its best start in 93 years and is undefeated and highly-ranked. The surprise of the Big Ten, now everyone wants to see the Hawkeyes play, regardless of the extra add-ons presented by the school.
In August I closed my article stating that winning brings people to the stadium better than any attraction could. This is not an original thought by any means, but this season certain schools have proven it once again. Texas, which is struggling on the field, has seen a precipitous drop in attendance over the past three years. Iowa, on the other hand, is selling out at home. Concerts, “kid zones” and other promos are fine when they work, but nothing beats fielding a winner. Just ask Hawkeye fans.