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College football student attendance down about 7 percent per report

Nick Bromberg
Dr. Saturday

We've written about how college football programs are trying combat declining student attendance with promotions like free tickets, advanced wireless connections and giveaways, but there hasn't been an indication of just how much attendance has declined in recent years.

A report in the Wall Street Journal has tried to put a number to the trend.

Through Freedom of Information Act requests, the WSJ analyzed student ticket data from 80 colleges, including 38 schools from Power Five conferences. Based on that information, the Journal says the average student attendance at games is down 7.1 percent since 2009.

From the WSJ:

Average student attendance at college football games is down 7.1% since 2009, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of stadium turnstile records from about 50 public colleges with top-division football teams. The decline was 5.6% at colleges in the five richest conferences.

The decrease even at schools with entrenched football traditions and national championships stands in contrast to college football's overall popularity. Total turnout at home games of top-tier teams hit a record in 2013, while average attendance has slipped just 0.8% since 2009.

The reasons for the decline? Television and, well, performance. Alabama's football attendance has increased in the time period. UCLA's has too. Florida and Colorado's attendance has declined. Look at the records of those schools.

According to the WSJ, 74 percent of student tickets at Kansas were unused last year. (Student combo tickets at Kansas include both football and basketball.)

Michigan's ticket plan is also cited in the report. The Wolverines raised the price of student tickets from $205 to $295 last year and made the student section general admission instead of based off class year. According to a survey, 76 percent of students disapproved of the change.

"There are students who are being priced out," says Michael Proppe, Michigan's student-body president last year, told the WSJ. "People are looking to trim costs, and for a lot of folks, football is an easy thing to cut. It's not essential to going to college."

We're biased; we think it is essential. However, a good gameday experience is also essential. It's why schools are actively combating the allure of bars with high-definition televisions.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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