Can The Boston College AD Take 2012 To The Bank With Spaziani?

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 03: Fans watch as the Boston College Eagles take on the Northwestern Wildcats on September 3, 2011 at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Heights and Lows had an interesting take on the BC head coaching situation as it relates to the Eagles' upcoming football schedule. DL notes that the 2012 home slate is one ridiculously, ridiculously good-looking schedule. Based on a strong showing at the game in 2012, could DeFilippo rationalize digging in his heels here and sticking with Spaz through the 2012 season?

"If 2012 is going to be a failure on the field no matter what - new coach or same coach, 4-8 or 5-7 are optimistic unless this team completely changes form - but won't hurt the wallet that much, there is no reason to change. 2013 doesn't have quite the same prospects in terms of guaranteed cash flow. The ACC capsule reverts back to the Wake Forest-NC State-Florida State home games, and TOB is about as likely to be there in 2013 as Spaz will be." 

So the question becomes: could Spaz even manage to screw up a strong home schedule that includes Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Miami, Maryland and Army?

With just 38,729 in attendance for BC's Thursday night game against Florida State, Spaz is guaranteed at least the third lowest yearly attendance average since Alumni Stadium expanded to 44,500 in 1994. Though as Heights & Lows points out, the years where BC draws Wake Forest, N.C. State and Florida State at home have been among the more lightly attended seasons. However, it's not like Spaz has been a blockbuster at the gate in years where BC instead gets Clemson, Virginia Tech and Maryland at home, either. 

Here are the five lowest yearly attendance averages since Alumni Stadium expanded in 1994:

5. 2006 -- 38,843 (7 games) - O'Brien
4. 2010 -- 38,369 (7) - Spaz
3. 1997 -- 36,288 (7) - O'Brien
2. 2011 -- 36,109 (5) - Spaz
1. 2009 -- 35,716 (7) - Spaz

So even in 2010, when BC hosted Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Maryland at home, Spaz managed to draw a little over 38k to Alumni Stadium. That's good for the fourth lowest average attendance total from 1994-present, only better than 1997 (TOB's first season), 2011 to date (Spaz) and 2009 (Spaz).

So will 2012 be a financial slam dunk even with Spaz? Let's take a closer look.

Below are the per-team home attendance averages under Tom O'Brien, Jeff Jagodzinski and Spaz.

[NOTE: there are plenty of outside factors to per-game home attendance, including strength of opponent at the time, macroeconomic factors, day of week and time and the honeymoon effect in the years immediately following the move to the ACC. This is a highly simplistic model that attempts to quantify -- at an extremely high level -- how Spaz measures up to his predecessors as far as motivating the fan base to show up on Saturdays.]

TOB = average home attendance under Tom O'Brien
Jags = average home attendance under Jeff Jagodzinski
TOB+Jags Avg. = average home attendance under TOB and Jags
Spaz = average home attendance under Frank Spaziani
Delta = difference between TOB+Jags. average and Spaz

Opponent TOB Jags TOB+Jags Avg. Spaz Delta
Clemson Tigers 44,500 41,863 43,182 37,137 6,045
Virginia Tech Hokies 43,427 44,127 43,544 42,317 1,227
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 44,500 44,500 44,500 44,500 0
Miami Hurricanes 43,273 44,500 43,518 N/A N/A
Maryland Terrapins 44,500 42,767 43,634 36,078 7,556
Army Black Knights 32,172 40,329 34,211 N/A N/A
I-AA (2012: Maine) 41,958 38,370 40,762 32,535 8,227
Totals         23,054

We can immediately throw out the Notre Dame game. Gary Tranquill could probably be named head coach tomorrow and BC would still sell out the Irish home game on November 10. But look at some of these other deltas?

For the Clemson game, we've gone from a sellout in 2006 (44,500) to just 41,863 to 37,137 in 2010. The trend line for the Clemson game is certainly going in the wrong direction, with Spaz averaging over 6k less fans for the one Clemson home game last season. A similar story for the Maryland home game (delta = 7,556) with a much smaller impact in the Virginia Tech series (1,227).

What is concerning, however, is the attendance for BC's annual I-AA home game. Here Spaz's three home games against Northeastern, Weber State and UMass have averaged over 8k less than his predecessors and that includes two local opponents in Northeastern (though now defunct) and UMass (moving up to I-A). 

If you total up the deltas for Clemson, Maryland, Virginia Tech and our I-AA opponent alone, you are looking at a total delta of over 23,000 fans. And this doesn't factor in a likely dip in attendance for the Miami game -- a well attended game when the Canes were actually good in the Big East -- and the Army game.

Let's assume that the average ticket price will be $25 in 2012, with ticket prices staying high thanks to the Notre Dame and Virginia Tech games (and with the AD not having to dump tickets with GroupOn or Living Social). Even still, this represents a loss of over half a million dollars in ticket sales as an extremely conservative estimate if Spaz stays on for 2012, potentially alienating an already apathetic fan base even further.

This assumes Spaz will keep attendance relatively flat from 2010 to 2012 (a shaky assumption given the direction this program is headed and the general unhappiness of the fan base) and doesn't factor any delta for the Miami and Army games. It also assumes that hiring a new coach would sufficiently motivate the fan base to go to the games and a return to pre-Spaz TOB/Jags level attendance figures.

Can DeFilippo take 2012 to the bank with Spaziani as head coach? Very possibly. But given the above, I'm not so sure. Personally, I wouldn't put it past Spaz to preside over yet another dip in attendance in 2012. Does GDF roll the dice here and bank on a strong performance at the gate regardless of who is coach? Or will fans and alumni successfully vote with their wallets, choosing to stay home until a change is made at the top?

Your move, GDF.

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