Rising Costs and Declining Numbers: Attendance at College Games


A couple fans wait in the stands at Rice Eccles Stadium after a 21-7 loss to the Washington Huskies on Sat. Sept. 15, 2018.(Photo by: Justin Prather | The Utah Chronicle).

By Adam Cochran, Sports Writer


Attendance at college sporting events is falling. People aren’t getting out to games as much as they used to. This is the first year that I remember hearing people complain about the MUSS not being completely full for every game. The irony about that is that this University of Utah football team is arguably the best in history, and it is certainly the best team we’ve had since the 2008 season when the Utes won the Sugar Bowl.

A decline in attendance is a nationwide problem, not just at the U. The University of Notre Dame — outside of South Bend, Indiana — has a football program steeped in history. In 1973, the Irish began a streak of selling out every game they played in South Bend. This streak withstood a stadium renovation in 1997 that added 21,000 seats to the stadium, taking the capacity from 59,000 to over 80,000 people every week.

Fast forward 46 years. It’s now 2019. On Nov. 16, in a game against the United States Naval Academy, this streak ended. Notre Dame failed to sell out their stadium for the first time in almost half a century. The day will not be remembered for the dominating victory the Irish handed a rival. Instead, it will be remembered as the day the streak ended. It will be remembered as the end of an era.


Why the Decline?


Empty seats after the Utes give up a 21-7 loss to the Washington Huskies at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sat. Sept. 15, 2018.(Photo by: Justin Prather | The Utah Chronicle).

Every year, technology makes the world feel a little bit smaller. It connects people while they are still very distant. This is awesome. I can video chat with a family member while they are overseas to tell them some big news. I can follow the lives of people who I would have otherwise lost contact with.

With the current technology, every game can be seen from the comfort of one’s living room. For a college football junkie like myself, this is glorious. I watched four high-profile college football games on a day that my favorite team, the Utes, had a bye.

My TV switched seamlessly between the two of those games that happened to be airing at the same time. I never had to wait in line for food or the bathroom. It was a fantastic Saturday for me and the results went in favor of the Utes.

This comfort and technology is contributing to the decline of attendance. I can sit on my couch, with an HD TV and get a better view of what’s happening on the field than I would if I were sitting almost anywhere in the stadium.


Escalated Price

Another reason attendance is declining is the price. Even as a student, if I want to join the MUSS with one extra visitor pass, I have to pay almost $300. There are free student tickets available, but if I want a guest pass to take a friend with me, it will cost me between $20-$60 for the game, but this is cheap compared to the general admission prices.

Looking for tickets on the secondary ticket market will cost you a pretty penny. Sometimes, this means hundreds of dollars for two tickets to a game, and most of those people are just trying to get back what they paid for the tickets as the tickets themselves are simply that expensive.


What’s the Big Deal?

Empty seats after the Utes give up a 21-7 loss to the Washington Huskies at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sat. Sept. 15, 2018.(Photo by: Justin Prather | The Utah Chronicle).

Attendance is a large part of the game. Fan involvement contributes significantly to momentum, and at times, especially in football, can cause the visiting team to commit penalties. At the U’s women’s basketball team’s Halloween exhibition game against Westminster, over 6,000 elementary school students attended, turning the Jon M. Huntsman Center into a thunderous venue for a basketball game.

“That’s why the attendance piece is such a big part of building a program,” said head coach Lynne Roberts. “These games are hard to duplicate throughout the year. Very rarely are you going to have 6,000 kids screaming like that, but my vision for this program is to get 6,000 fans screaming like that, whether they’re 60 or 6. You can see why it’s such a big deal. It’s not a secret formula that the teams that win and get on the national map have a fan base behind them.”

Some of my best memories as a student at the U are at sporting events. I love screaming and high-fiving strangers as the football team makes an incredible play. I love yelling at the top of my lungs as someone on the basketball team sinks a clutch 3-pointer. If I could say anything to students, go to sporting events. They are fun — the atmosphere is great at this school. You can get a free ticket for yourself to any sporting event, and some even allow you to bring a guest. So go while you can and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with sports fandom and help our Utes win their big games.


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