Jeff: The Boston College Athletic Department sent out emails yesterday offering a new 3-game ticket package for our final three games of the season. Soon, the Parents' Weekend game will be behind us and it does not appear that it will be a sellout despite playing Clemson, who has brought the games with highest ticket demand since BC joined the ACC out of all our conference home games. Now that we see that the ticket office is offering these special 3 game packs as a way to purchase Notre Dame tickets without being a season ticket holder, it is very clear that this season's ticket demand is worse than expected for a year with a Notre Dame home game.
The 2011 season represented a terrible year for BC in terms of home attendance where they only averaged slightly over 35,000 per home game. That attendance mark was particularly bad for BC but it is important to note that the ACC was down in attendance in 2011 also despite Florida State being up 6,527 in per game attendance. Across the nation attendance was down and the Big 12 was the only conference to be up in per game attendance and that might have been largely due to realignment and Colorado leaving for the PAC 12. Bowl game attendance was also down about 1,300 fans per game. Is BC's attendance suffering from the same issues affecting programs nationwide or is it completely due to the wins and losses the team has put up recently?
Brian: It's a bit of A, a bit of B. Clearly the program's struggles, the A.D.'s retirement and Spaz's hot seat have contributed to fan apathy which has manifested itself at the gate. When the program can't schedule the I-AA game on Parents' Weekend, attendance is going to take a hit. Similarly, attendance will also take a hit when you trade home dates with a regional team (Army) that has a pretty big national following. Miami is at a recent historical low point for the football program, Maine is Maine and Clemson is coming off a tough road loss at Tallahassee. Maryland is not a big draw and by the time Notre Dame and Virginia Tech hit campus, the season may be over for BC.
Having just six home games this season, the timing off the opponents and the team struggling as it is all contributes.
BC is also getting hit by the same macro factors that are affecting college football attendance nationally. Attendance at I-A vs. I-AA paycheck games continues on the steady decline. I'd be curious to see just how much longer this trend continues until programs wise up and start scheduling tougher with attendance concerns outweighing concerns about bowl-eligibility. The increased TV coverage across the ACC makes it much easier for fans to watch the game without the hassle of tailgating and adhering to the myriad of campus restrictions. Obviously I still take time out of every weekend to watch BC play on Saturdays, but the decision to mobilize the entire family and miss the rest of the day's college football action is made a little easier when you can catch virtually every game on TV these days. That wasn't even close to the case just a few years ago.
The last macro factor affecting BC and college football in general is the economy. It's not cheap to travel to games, particularly for a school like BC that relies on a large portion of season ticket holders from NYC/NJ mobilizing and heading to Chestnut Hill on Saturdays. It's harder and harder to justify the expense when the program is the only team left in the ACC with a sub-.500 record through the first 1/3 of the season.
Attendance will be up over 2011 but likely down from 2010. That makes sense in a way, as the Clemson + Virginia Tech + Maryland + rotating Coastal team years have typically outdrawn the Florida State + N.C. State + Wake Forest + rotating Coastal schedule. Attendance across college football will similarly be down this year. The question is when will BC hit bottom and if there's a recovery on the short-term horizon.