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What Do Attendance Figures Tell Us About The SEC?

empty-stadium-seatsThe ever-excellent Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News has done some digging and found that overall attendance at college football games is down year-to-year.  The first five weeks of the 2013 season were compared to the first five weeks of the 2012 and 2011 seasons.  Attendance is off by 3% from last year and 6% from two years ago.

None of this should surprise anyone.  The decline in attendance has been covered many time in many places, including here at MrSEC.com.  The quality of high definition broadcasts, the sheer number of games that are televised, new and different outlets for watching games (computers, phones), lack of quality WiFi and/or cell coverage at stadiums, rising costs of attendance (tickets, concessions, parking), and three to four games a year that feature cupcake opponents have all been cited as reasons for falling attendance figures.

Below are the September numbers for all 14 of the Southeastern Conference’s programs.  Keep in mind that these are tickets-sold figures, not actual turnstile numbers (which would no doubt be lower).  The schools are listed according to the percentage change from 2012′s first five weeks.

 

  School   2013 Avg. Attendance   2012 Avg. Attendance   Change   Home Games to Date
  Kentucky   60,789   50,712   +19.9%   Miami (OH), Florida, Louisville
  Ole Miss   60,815   55,158   +10.3%   SE Missouri St.
  S. Carolina   81,472   78,602   +3.7%   N. Carolina, Vanderbilt
  Florida   86,839   85,903   +1.1%   Toledo, Tennessee
  Texas A&M   86,906   86,777   +0.1%   Rice, Sam Houston St., Alabama, SMU
  Georgia   92,746   92,671   +0.1%   S. Carolina, N. Texas, LSU
  Alabama   101,821   101,821   +0.0%   Colorado St. Ole Miss
  Tennessee   90,406   90,665   -0.3%   Austin Peay, W. Kentucky, S. Alabama
  Miss. State   55,091   55,460   -0.7%   Alcorn St., Troy
  Auburn   84,719   85,968   -1.5%   Washington St., Arkansas St. Mississippi St.
  LSU   90,596   92,299   -1.8%   TCU, UAB, Kent St., Auburn
  Vanderbilt   35,326   36,942   -4.4%   Ole Miss, Austin Peay, UAB
  Arkansas   63,210   67,828   -6.8%   UL-Lafayette, Samford, S. Miss, Texas A&M
  Missouri   59,097   68,060   -13.2%   Murray St., Toledo, Arkansas St.

 

Observations:

*  Kudos to Mark Stoops for exciting the Kentucky fanbase with his staff hires, his message, and his recruiting.  However, it must be pointed out that UK attendance fell to laughable levels as Joker Phillips’ tenure neared its end in 2012.

*  South Carolina fans — one of the most loyal if not the most loyal fanbase in the SEC — continue to increase their school’s ticket sales.  After many years of filling Williams-Brice Stadium to witness losing football teams, it’s good to see Cock fans finally rewarded with a product that equals their support.

*  As for Alabama… it’s good to be the king.  Tide fans continue to sell out Bryant-Denny Stadium.

*  Mississippi State hasn’t had the best of home games so far in 2013.  With stadium expansion on the way, MSU’s attendance is on to watch now that Dan Mullen’s halo has been tarnished a bit.

*  Traditional football powers Auburn and Arkansas have new coaches.  LSU has a coach who seems to win 10 games every single season.  Yet all three schools have seen a decline in attendance through September.  Welcome to the new college football reality — fans are more finicky.

*  Vanderbilt fans who hope to keep James Franklin in Nashville at year’s end had better start snapping up tickets to Dudley Field.  Franklin has campaigned long and hard for better attendance in what is the SEC’s smallest venue.  Should VU’s coach depart for greener pastures, expect fan support to be a motivating factor.

*  Anyone wondering about the temperature of Gary Pinkel’s seat at Missouri need only look at the Tigers’ attendance figures to arrive at the answer.  His seat is hot and he needs to win.  To date, he has.  He’ll need to keep that up now that the SEC portion of Mizzou’s schedule has arrived.  With massive expansion projects coming to the MU campus, the school can’t afford to see a revenue drop in its football program.

 

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Knight Commission Believes New Football Subdivision Should Be Studied

faultlineThe idea of a new subdivision of the richest schools in the country deserves more study, according to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.  The commission does not, however, support such a subdivision just yet… it only calls for more study.

According to the ever-excellent Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News, the commissioner sent a memo to NCAA president Mark Emmert today calling for changes in how the NCAA governs.

Among the points covered in the think tank’s memo:

 

*   The makeup of the NCAA executive committee needs to be broadened.

*  The new College Football Playoff should reimburse the NCAA for services — such as eligibility checks, creation of rules, rules enforcement, etc — which enable college football to operate as a collegiate sport.

*  Revenue distribution should be revised to ensure academic incentives are appropriately embedded in the system.

 

The Knight Commission conducted interviews with about 50 “high education and college sports leaders” in an attempt to determine which NCAA-related issues are most important to the body’s members.

The NCAA Division I board will meet Thursday to begin considering different ways to govern the 348 schools — about 125 of which play football — in their membership.

As we’ve written for two years now, a new subdivision of the richest schools is the next step in college sports evolution.  There are too many issues involved for schools to break away totally from the NCAA.  Likewise, there are too many issues involved — money being the biggest — for all 348 Division I schools to be governed in the same fashion.  The easiest compromise, then, is a new subdivision at the top of the D-I stratum.

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SEC Spring Meetings Wrap: $20.7 Million Distributed Per School

That's a WrapThe SEC 2013 spring meetings are over.  Here are a few final news and notes from Destin.

- The SEC distributed just under $290 million to its 14 members for the 2012-2013 school year. That works out to $20.7 million per school.  $14.1 million from bowl games and $980,000 for NCAA academic enhancement are not included in the totals. The individual school distribution increased $600,000 from last year, when the league had 12 members.. The total distribution is $45.4 million greater than last year. Here’s a breakdown of the league distributions every year since 1980.

- The SEC wants the NCAA to take the lead on head injuries.  According to Jon Solomon at AL.com, “The SEC wants the NCAA to examine possible revisions to playing rules in various sports, including football, and collect national data. The SEC stopped short of offering specific ideas publicly.”

- As expected, the SEC will remain at eight conference games, at least for a few more years.  The format is still 6-1–1 – six divisional games, one permanent cross-divisional rival and one rotating divisional rival.  Currently, Arkansas is paired with South Carolina and Missouri with Texas A&M as permanent rivals.  That will change in 2014 when Arkansas will start to see Missouri on an annual basis and the Aggies and the Gamecocks will become yearly rivals.

- Speaking of scheduling, we mentioned in our headlines roundup today that it looked like Texas A&M would be cancelling series against Oregon and Southern Cal.  The USC series is off but it looks like the two games against Oregon in 2018 and 2019 are still on.

- SEC basketball coaches are looking at ways to curb the transfer trend.  One of the ways to do that would be take a hard line on exemptions and hardship waivers.  Auburn coach Tony Barbee: “One of the things that we’ve discussed as coaches that we’d like to see go away is all of the exemptions and waivers that are available. If you decide to transfer, we feel as coaches that you should have to sit out a year, regardless of individual situations.”

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SEC Network Launching As More People Demand A La Carte Programming

sec-network-final-logo-smallThe new SEC Network is in for a fight.  Actually, it’s in for several fights.

As we’ve explained over the past several weeks, cable and satellite providers don’t like adding new channels.  That’s because they have to pay fees to new networks in order to carry (and re-sell) their programming.  Inevitably, the more they pay and the more channels they add, the higher your monthly bill rises.  The provider’s costs are passed along to its viewers.

Cable and satellite companies have tried to protect themselves from a large-scale subscriber revolt by bundling similar channels together.  Want premium movie channels?  You pay extra.  Want sports channels?  You pay extra.

More importantly, the family that doesn’t want extra movie or sports channels doesn’t have to pay any increased monthly fees.

But with so many channels now available, viewers are now growing tired of bundling, too.  A person might be willing to pay for the NFL Network and some extra regional sports networks, but that doesn’t mean he wants to be charged for the bull-riding or soccer channels.  Or vice versa.  A la carte programming is a desire shared by many.

On top of the “bundling versus a la carte” debate, many viewers are now choosing to get programming from a specific network by subscribing to that channel — or another provider — online.  More and more families are bringing content into their televisions via the internet with special TV hookups, video game consoles, or other devices/services.

Into all of that upheaval… enter the SEC Network.

Yesterday, Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News provided a broad overview of the current programming landscape and how the SEC Network might fit into it.  We linked you to it in our Sunday headlines, but in case you missed it, we wanted to push it again.  You should read it.

The more we as a society get used to instant answers to our questions — thanks, World Wide Web — the more we expect simple answers.  “When will I get the SEC Network?”  “How much will I pay for the network?”  “Can I just sign up for the network and nothing else?”

Unfortunately, as we’ve mentioned before, there are no simple answers on the SEC Network front.  Everything comes down to you where you live, your cable or satellite provider, and that provider’s willingness to cut a deal with ESPN/SEC.  Solomon’s column simply hammers home the point that how we view television is changing and that will impact the SEC’s new channel.

If you want simple, you’re outta luck.  The process by which providers add networks more often than not gets messy.  And the current television landscape — cable, satellite, bundling, a la carte, online, on-demand — is messier still.

Into all of that upheaval… enter the SEC Network.

The channel will make money and eventually you should be able to see it.  But you’d best be ready for a long, hard slog.  The Pac-12 Network, for example, launched last August and it’s still not on DirecTV.

How patient will SEC fans be?  Probably not very.  The thought of missing three football games every Saturday will likely lead some to pull their hair out, which is exactly what ESPN and the SEC are counting on.  The angrier you become, the more likely you’ll be to call your cable or satellite provider and demand the channel, thus upping the pressure on that provider to yield to ESPN and the SEC’s price demands (which will then be passed back to you).

What’s ironic is that before 2009 and the SEC’s twin contracts with ESPN and CBS, many SEC games weren’t on television.  After four years of nearly every SEC game getting national coverage, there’s now an expectation that any SEC game you want to see will be available.  Come next August, for some, that will no longer be the case.

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SEC Doesn’t Renew Boudreaux’s Contract As Coordinator Of Hoops Officials

gerald-boudreauxGerald Boudreaux is out as the SEC’s coordinator of basketball officials, a position he has held since 2006.  ESPN’s Andy Katz reports that the league — according to multiple sources — has decided not to renew his contract.

Boudreaux served as an on-court SEC official for 20 years (1986-2006) before taking over as the league’s grand poobah of officiating.

No reason has been given yet for the decision not to renew Boudreaux’s contract.  We have requested a comment from the SEC office, but none has come as of yet.

UPDATE – Boudreaux was contacted by Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News.  Via email Boudreaux wrote: “I will defer all comments to the commissioner’s office.”

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SEC Headlines 10/8/2011 Part Two

Auburn at Arkansas

1. Jon Solomon’s message to Arkansas: “If you want to beat Auburn tonight, you better deliver the kill shot.”

2. Auburn freshman quarterback Kiehl Frazier grew up loving the Razorbacks: “It’s definitely kind of a dream come true to get to play in that stadium.”

3. Watch out for Auburn running back and Arkansas native Michael Dyer tonight.

4. Auburn’s goal is to make the Razorbacks offense one-dimensional.

Georgia at Tennessee

5. Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson: “It looks as if this will be the turning point.”

6. The matchup to watch tonight? Aaron Murray vs. the Tennessee secondary.

7. The milestone they’re reluctant to talk about.  A victory tonight would be the 100th of Mark Richt’s coaching career.

8. Tennessee running back Tauren Poole is a Georgia native who wasn’t recruited by the Bulldogs but he takes no offense. ““I don’t take it as an insult or anything.”

9. Georgia has the best chance to win the SEC East.  Says who?  Says the father of Tennessee’s coach.

Vanderbilt at Alabama

10. Vanderbilt’s theme (prayer?) tonight – keep it close and make the end of the game count.

11. It’s the number-one ranked scoring defense vs. the 117th ranked total offense.

12. Alabama’s offensive line is starting to gel.

13. Vandy needs its Alabama natives to step up tonight.

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Slive Won’t Get Specific On Expansion Talk

With rumors flying in College Station that Texas A&M isn’t happy, a possible Aggie move to the SEC has been all the talk in recent weeks.  Naturally, Mike Slive was asked about expansion today and Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News tweeted the commissioner’s response:


“I’m going to think about and do things that are in the long-term best interests of the SEC.  We’re going to continue to be strategic and thoughtful.  I’m going to leave it at that.”


Ah, so it seems we can sum up Slive’s expansion plan in one word…



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SEC Headlines – 6/29/11 Part Two

1.  Mike Anderson will need buy-in from his first Arkansas team.

2.  Here’s a look at LSU’s 2011 football chances… from an Auburn point of view.

3.  Kudos to Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News for compiling a list of the time-killing lists most often posted by websites in June and July.

4.  Gene Chizik says he hopes his new book gives folks encouragement because “everybody lives their 5-19.”  He wants them to know that their failures can be overcome… just as he grabbed a national title two years after posting his own 5-19 record at Iowa State.

5.  Here’s more on Chizik’s new book.

6.  AU freshman receiver Jaylon Denson is present and accounted for on The Plains.

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SEC Headlines – 6/27/11 Part One

1.  Former Auburn coach Pat Dye is fine with big salaries, but he’s not a fan of big incentives and bonuses on top of big salaries.

2.  Another scandal?  Take one part Ole Miss-MSU recruiting battle.  Add in social media (naturally).  Add one Range Rover.  Let simmer on SportsByBrooks.com.

3.  South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram is the SEC’s 23rd best player — according to The Gainesville Sun.

4.  And the paper also says Auburn versus Mississippi State will be this year’s 24th best SEC game.  (Gotta love List Season.)

5.  Here at MrSEC.com, we cover the 24 football and basketball programs in the SEC — which is quite hectic enough, thank you.  But with Florida and South Carolina battling for the national baseball title this week, we bring you this link to a good piece on how the SEC’s success coincides with an increase in spending on the sport.  (As always, kudos to Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News.)

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SEC Headlines 6/11/2011

1. Tennessee and the NCAA – the day of reckoning has arrived. Lane Kiffin will make an appearance.

2. Today’s activities will add another $25,000 to the Volunteers legal bills.

3. Cross two names off the Tennessee AD search. A few names to watch here.

4. Bruce Pearl better watch what he says about his former employer.

5. Jon Solomon on Gene Chizik: “Is he the game’s next great coach? Is he a one-year wonder propped up by Cam Newton and Gus Malzahn? Or does the truth lie somewhere in between?”

6. Kentucky wants a contract extension for John Calipari.

7. The best coordinators in the SEC.

8. Judge orders mental exam for Harvey Updyke.

9. Do you have a tweet for Harvey?

10. A trip to Africa is one a contingent from Kentucky will never forget.

11. LSU basketball and the Italy diary.

12. Former Florida linebacker Godfrey Miles dies of a heart attack at the age of 42.

13. Kentucky recruit beats Kentucky.

14. Arkansas guard Jeff Peterson is leaving the Razorbacks basketball team.

Extra

15. Revisiting the 2004 National Championship.

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