Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald Nails The Attendance Problem

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Attendance decline is a common conversation every offseason for college football fans. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald has an interesting theory behind the decline, and his statements quickly went viral out of Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.

With some level of irony based on how many people likely watched the commentary from their phones, Fitzgerald’s two-minute long social commentary had millions of views by Monday.

Don’t have time to watch? Here is what Fitzgerald said during his podium session in Chicago.

“I think phones, I think technology has been the decline in attendance, No. 1,” Fitzgerald said. “Watching young people today live like this (with their heads in their phones) instead of like that (with their eyes up front). Stacey and I were out on a date last night. There were two groups of couples sitting next two us. I’m like ‘oh my gosh I’m old.’ Not one of the two couples were talking to each other. They were all on their phones. It just drove me up the wall. I literally wanted to be like a dad. Give me your phone. Talk to each other. This is pathetic. It was really pathetic.

“It’s changed the way a lot of young people and younger fans intake, it’s all through technology. You watch a concert and everybody is holding the phone up. Listen, watch, take it in, create a memory. They don’t come back and watch the videos. They just want to post it on their social media, which is pathetic. It creates a society of, ‘look at me, isn’t my life great.’ … I think it’s a big cause. I think it’s the root cause, No. 1. I think the fans that grew up tailgating and going to the stadiums four hours before games are getting a little older. I think the next, and younger, generations of fans are more reliant on technology. They’d rather have 12 TVs set up in their TV-watching cave than go to a game and experience the pageantry and the tailgating. I think it’s definitely things we need to look at as a brand, college football, on how we can create that type of environment and experiences while respecting our communities and our neighborhoods to make sure the experiences that are happening don’t impede on those neighborhoods.”
 
#4
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#4
He's 110% right....hold on, gotta check my phone notification.........................................................................................What was we discussing????
 
#6

tpsdave

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#6
Attendance decline is a common conversation every offseason for college football fans. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald has an interesting theory behind the decline, and his statements quickly went viral out of Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.

With some level of irony based on how many people likely watched the commentary from their phones, Fitzgerald’s two-minute long social commentary had millions of views by Monday.

Don’t have time to watch? Here is what Fitzgerald said during his podium session in Chicago.

“I think phones, I think technology has been the decline in attendance, No. 1,” Fitzgerald said. “Watching young people today live like this (with their heads in their phones) instead of like that (with their eyes up front). Stacey and I were out on a date last night. There were two groups of couples sitting next two us. I’m like ‘oh my gosh I’m old.’ Not one of the two couples were talking to each other. They were all on their phones. It just drove me up the wall. I literally wanted to be like a dad. Give me your phone. Talk to each other. This is pathetic. It was really pathetic.

“It’s changed the way a lot of young people and younger fans intake, it’s all through technology. You watch a concert and everybody is holding the phone up. Listen, watch, take it in, create a memory. They don’t come back and watch the videos. They just want to post it on their social media, which is pathetic. It creates a society of, ‘look at me, isn’t my life great.’ … I think it’s a big cause. I think it’s the root cause, No. 1. I think the fans that grew up tailgating and going to the stadiums four hours before games are getting a little older. I think the next, and younger, generations of fans are more reliant on technology. They’d rather have 12 TVs set up in their TV-watching cave than go to a game and experience the pageantry and the tailgating. I think it’s definitely things we need to look at as a brand, college football, on how we can create that type of environment and experiences while respecting our communities and our neighborhoods to make sure the experiences that are happening don’t impede on those neighborhoods.”
He's 100% right.
 
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#7

volfanbill

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He might be correct about the phones but the ticket prices are a huge reason attendance is down in sports. IMO
If you know what you’re doing you can get tickets for pennies on the dollar. If you can’t, it’s because attendance isn’t an issue for such an event, or you’re not trying to find cheap tickets
 
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#8

Lawrence Wright

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#8
If you know what you’re doing you can get tickets for pennies on the dollar. If you can’t, it’s because attendance isn’t an issue for such an event, or you’re not trying to find cheap tickets
Agree 100%.

Tickets are easier to find now than they were 10-15 years ago.

The notable exception I can recall would be the UF-Miami game in 2008, and the upcoming UF-Miami game scheduled for August 24.
 
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#9

bigdaddy

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#9
For me, it’s the stadium experience isn’t worth the hassle. I built a man cave with three TVs and a beer fridge right there. It’s so much better than the 14 inch hard ass bleacher seat they have at Neyland. Plus fighting the traffic and the crowds just don’t appeal to me anymore. I live 6.7 miles from the stadium and don’t go to games but go downtown instead for game day then head home. I agree you can get tix on the street cheaper but once inside it’s just not worth the cost of time and money. Granted, I had season tix from 1990-2007 so I was there for the good years. For me to go back, lower the price of face value, get all box seats with cup holders, Drop concession prices now you have beer. Also, winning would help a ton.
 
#11

mrMet

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#11
For me, it’s the stadium experience isn’t worth the hassle. I built a man cave with three TVs and a beer fridge right there. It’s so much better than the 14 inch hard ass bleacher seat they have at Neyland. Plus fighting the traffic and the crowds just don’t appeal to me anymore. I live 6.7 miles from the stadium and don’t go to games but go downtown instead for game day then head home. I agree you can get tix on the street cheaper but once inside it’s just not worth the cost of time and money. Granted, I had season tix from 1990-2007 so I was there for the good years. For me to go back, lower the price of face value, get all box seats with cup holders, Drop concession prices now you have beer. Also, winning would help a ton.
Losing your buzz and then losing the game puts a real damper on a Saturday afternoon/night
 
#12

thunder5

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#12
They need to do something with the game day experience. That you cant get at home. Not sure what that is.
I agree somewhat with Fitzgerald but honestly I think you’ve nailed it...it used to be that 1/3 of the games weren’t televised and those that were televised came through on crappy TV sets...now all games are televised and we have 60-80in 4K TV sets in the comfort of our man caves...

I’m like you...I don’t know what the answer is for those involved in the stadium experience...but that’s the main source of the attendance issue IMO
 
#13

05_never_again

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#13
Fitzgerald is right about phones but that isn't the reason for the attendance problem. The attendance problem is 100% caused by the fact that "they" have made the experience of staying at home too good.

50+ inch HDTVs are quite affordable, as is surround sound or whatever else you want. Every single game is on TV. You don't have to squeeze by people to get food/drink (which is expensive) or use the bathroom. Tickets are expensive.
 
#14

LouderVol

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The other other side of it, besides just better quality views on TV is all the other stuff TV offers.

Game Day is something to check out, commentary from announcers, play back, stats. You dont get that in game. At least not consistently. I think UT runs the stats at half time, but that's it.

I dont know if it even makes sense for the school to set up something like a tailgate building nearby. Or maybe open up Thompson Bowling. I think if the school itself set up more side shows to make the experience more unique that would help. I know they occasionally do stuff like that, but it would be cool to have the "men's basketball station" with rotating players and coaches set up for every game. Do the same with all the sports. Scatter them about so you arent mixing crowds.

Sounds kinda dumb but even doing a farmer's market type thing would be something different and unique. Bring more restaurants in to set up tents, or other local retailers.

Heck even having displays of some of the current student work up would be cool to see.
 
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#16
It's ticket prices, concession prices, time commitment for some is an issue (i.e. driving hours to get there and hours to drive back), and gasoline prices.

And I hate to say it but in cases like Neyland, it's really not that fun to try and sardine yourself into those seats. And I'm not a big fatso either. Not to mention in the past I actually had 2 seats members of my group couldn't physically sit in because a family of I'll call "large" people were in the same row and spilled over into our seats. The ushers found us better seats (it was a non-conference game against a lesser opponent) but if it had been an SEC game or better yet Alabama/Florida/Georgia, wtf was I supposed to do? That really turned me off to the Neyland experience.
 
#17
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Fitzgerald is right about phones but that isn't the reason for the attendance problem. The attendance problem is 100% caused by the fact that "they" have made the experience of staying at home too good.

50+ inch HDTVs are quite affordable, as is surround sound or whatever else you want. Every single game is on TV. You don't have to squeeze by people to get food/drink (which is expensive) or use the bathroom. Tickets are expensive.
And you don't have to use the time to travel to the games, when it's halftime you can turn to another game, and if your team starts getting waxed it's as simple as turning the channel.
 
#19

Jeepkuntry

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#19
Phones are part of the problem. Price is the main component. I wanted to watch the BYU game. I wasn't paying UT $119.50 for 2 in section K. I'll watch it from home on my 65" 4k, in my recliner, with whatever I want to drink in hand and whatever I want to eat. That my friends is why fewer people are going. Furthermore, they don't want to deal with obnoxious drunks, fans standing in the way, being cramped from half the bleacher being full of fat people.
 
#20

05_never_again

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#20
But I think you have to pay to be back there. I am talking about it being free. I figure if they can set off fireworks they can allow ooking
They are mostly (all?) corporate tents and they are the ones paying. It doesn't cost anything to walk back there. If you know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody, you can stroll up and get drinks and such.
 
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#21
The conferences make a crapton of money off the TV contracts and make it so we can see pretty much every game. This in turn we pay for, so you can't turn around and complain that we're staying at home to enjoy the coverage you're getting paid for and that we are paying for.

The old days are dead; people aren't going to just show up because of "tradition" or whatever nostalgia you want to talk about.
 
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#22

ptcarter

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#22
Fitzgerald is right about phones but that isn't the reason for the attendance problem. The attendance problem is 100% caused by the fact that "they" have made the experience of staying at home too good.

50+ inch HDTVs are quite affordable, as is surround sound or whatever else you want. Every single game is on TV. You don't have to squeeze by people to get food/drink (which is expensive) or use the bathroom. Tickets are expensive.
I'm getting long in the tooth... I prefer going to the games. Yep, all the TV arguments about TV are valid, but there is an annoying aspect to TV. After all this time, I find it very rare that Herbstreit, Fowler, Booger, McElroy, Mowins, etc, actually add to what I already know or saw. Also.. Ads go on forever.. The solution is to DVR..wait about 45 minutes after kickoff to watch the game, speed through ads, turn the sound down, turn ringer off on cell phone so your buddies don't give the spoiler.. etc.. Much work.

At the game, you can meet people, admire the scenary, watch the dynamics of the coaching going on around the bench, (Camera only caught CJP kicking whiteboard once).. Yep, it's work and expense to get there, but it's fun. Caveat... The double digit losses do take the luster out of it.. At home, would switch women's beach volleyball at that stage.
 
#23

TUSKtimes

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#23
Fitzgerald is right about phones but that isn't the reason for the attendance problem. The attendance problem is 100% caused by the fact that "they" have made the experience of staying at home too good.

50+ inch HDTVs are quite affordable, as is surround sound or whatever else you want. Every single game is on TV. You don't have to squeeze by people to get food/drink (which is expensive) or use the bathroom. Tickets are expensive.

And in this environment, I can watch every single SEC game I so desire along with all the marquee games that hold even an ounce of interest to me. So, to surmise, 2 TVs ready for launch, great seats, no hellish temps to survive, all the games at the end of my remote. And I haven't even gotten to the smartphone yet.
 
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#24

STL0611

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#24
Hey
The other other side of it, besides just better quality views on TV is all the other stuff TV offers.

Game Day is something to check out, commentary from announcers, play back, stats. You dont get that in game. At least not consistently. I think UT runs the stats at half time, but that's it.

I dont know if it even makes sense for the school to set up something like a tailgate building nearby. Or maybe open up Thompson Bowling. I think if the school itself set up more side shows to make the experience more unique that would help. I know they occasionally do stuff like that, but it would be cool to have the "men's basketball station" with rotating players and coaches set up for every game. Do the same with all the sports. Scatter them about so you arent mixing crowds.

Sounds kinda dumb but even doing a farmer's market type thing would be something different and unique. Bring more restaurants in to set up tents, or other local retailers.

Heck even having displays of some of the current student work up would be cool to see.
Bowling? Really? It’s Boling
 
#25

RDU VOL#14

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#25
I think a lot of you guys make very good arguments, life gets in the way, traffic sucks, etc.., but at the same time you guys aren’t seeing it either. The TV and the smart phones are one in the same. Not because you watch the game on either one, but because they are a matter of convenience and comfort and we largely are not very good anymore at dealing with inconvenience or discomfort. At the same time, like Fitzgerald was saying, people even isolate themselves on dates, so now dealing with other people in a large setting is too much rather than experiencing the moment that Wilhoit hits a 51 yarder to beat Florida in person and feel the stadium shake or know what exact section you were in and how it felt. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up going to big college football games, but I’ve been to plenty other big time games, i know if I have the choice of seeing it in person or on tv I’m picking in person.

It’s not like Jack Daniels or mini bottles didn’t exist before the smart phone or the big screen tv, or there wasn’t a jail below the Vet in Philly because of drunks fighting. People have put up with that stuff for generations. I’m not saying go every weekend if you have an easy opportunity, but it’s 6 or 7 Saturdays out of 52 a year. Go for 4 or 5 . Of course there are lots of different circumstances that come into play and I get that, but I’m still a softy for the atmosphere and the overall experience of a full Gameday.
 

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