For the fourth consecutive season, the SEC has seen average attendance drop after reaching a high of 76,844 back in 2008. In fact, last season nine of the 14 SEC schools saw their attendance drop, which is a troubling sign to officials in the Southeastern Conference. Because of those figures, finding a way to improve the fan experience will be one of the top issues at the SEC’s annual spring meetings.
“It’s a real issue,” said Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, via CBS Sports. “A confluence of things is coming together and the world has changed. We have to change with it.”
Another man who is leading the charge is Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin, who heads the Working Group on Fan Experience that is helping to lead the charge of enhancing the fan experience in stadiums.
“Every industry that depends on people showing up for your events has to worry about this one,” said Stricklin. “One of the biggest challenges we have to deal with is how good the product has become on TV. And we have to make the in-stadium experience as good or better than watching it at home on TV.”
The SEC Working Group is already focused on improving in a few areas that could go a long way towards getting fans in the seats.
One of the first areas of improvement, though it will be costly, could be more reliable WiFi and cell phone service in the stadiums.
“Our next generation of fans is used to staying connected. They should be able to communicate in real time with somebody on the other side of the stadium,” said Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart. “It’s quite an investment but we have to make it.”
Programs will also begin to look at student attendance. Schools around the conference saw their student attendance dip and they have reduced the number of student tickets provided as a result. That allows the universities to use the additional tickets for alumni members.
For an idea at just how bad student attendance can be, Alabama saw only 69.4 percent of student tickets were used during the 2012 season, according to the Crimson White student newspaper. That is a troubling number for a school that has produced three national championships in the past four years.
Replay is another area where the stadiums need to improve. In the past, the video operators could only show certain replays and they could not provide them in slo-mo. If a play was under review, you would be lucky to see the play at all. When people at home get the luxury of watching the reviewed play numerous times from multiple angles, that gives the home experience the edge.
One final area that the work group is looking to improve is the quality of games.
The SEC is looking to enhance their conference schedule, which would certain result in an improved quality of games, so they are already on top of that issue. As it currently stands, people are less likely to go see a top-tier program face off against a random FBS directional school at home than watching a conference game.
How do you think teams should enhance their stadium experiences? If they add the WiFi and other suggestions, would you be more likely to attend a game? Sound off in the comments section and share your thoughts.
For those who were wondering, here are the attendance numbers from the past four seasons:
[H/T: CBS Sports]