Attendance numbers dip in major sports

What could be better than spending a Saturday in a college football stadium surrounded by screaming fans, eating barbecued ribs and sitting within a few yards of some of the best athletes in the entire nation?

Some sports fans seem to think their HDTVs, comfy couches and bag of chips are better, according to recent studies.

Major college football home attendance numbers in 2014 dropped to its lowest in 14 years, according to CBS Sports.

“I’d rather watch the bigger games at home,” said freshman Bo Harden. “It’s easier to see what’s going on. But, when it comes to UNA games, I’d rather be there in person to experience the atmosphere.”

UNA football head coach Bobby Wallace said the falling attendance does not seem to affect schools like UNA as much as schools that are regularly featured on major networks.

“Even when we’re on TV, we really don’t see a drop in attendance,” Wallace said. “Our attendance can be hurt by Alabama and Auburn TV games.”

Student Patrick Calloway said the televised D-I school sporting events might affect attendance at UNA games, but he does not think people are attending the higher-profile games less than they used to.

“Those stadiums are almost or completely full every time I see them,” Calloway said. “I think it really depends on what team and what conference, but the good teams don’t seem to be really suffering as far as attendance.”

He contributed the steady attendance to the success of D-I teams like Alabama and Auburn in recent years.

Auburn Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Communications Cassie Arner said her staff recognizes attendance is falling at college games across the U.S.

“It’s something we’re very aware of,” Arner said. “We’re doing a lot of things to make sure people keep coming to our games.”

She said the attendance decline has not struck at Auburn, and she suspects it is because the team has been successful in recent years.

Other sports also face the threat of attendance declines, and to combat that the university tries to plan events during basketball game weekends so fans want to travel to campus.

“We are trying to make sure our fans have a reason to come to Auburn,” she said. “The idea is they would have things to do throughout the whole weekend on campus.”

Freshman Aja Hall said the energy at sporting events cannot be replaced by a high-quality view on TV.

“You’re way more into it when you’re actually there,” Hall said. “When you’re at home, there are too many other distractions for you to have that same involvement.”

College sports are not alone in the attendance decline.

From 2007 to 2008, the NFL saw a 4.5 percent decline in attendance, according to research conducted by Mike Florio, a sports analyst.

Florio attributed much of the decline to the economy.

Wallace agreed with Florio’s assessment, saying by the time teams reach the end of the season, fans are likely running low on cash.

“During bowl season, people probably watch games on TV more than they go to them,” he said. “It gets really expensive to buy tickets for those games, and the traveling can cost a lot.”

Senior Jordan Campbell said weather conditions could also be a reason people may prefer to watch the game on TV.

“If it’s too cold or if it’s raining, I’m staying home,” he said.

UNA volleyball player Abby Winkler said she is not a major fan of college sports, and being from a northern state, many of the sports she likes to watch are not televised in the Shoals.

She, however, said she settles for catching games on TV when she is unable to attend them.

“The atmosphere and energy in the gym can’t be beat,” she said. “But, watching sports on TV is definitely a close second.”