Where to begin with attendance?
photos courtesy of Andrew K
Editor's Preface: First let me state that I am not a season ticket holder. I haven’t been one since I was a student. If you transported my current life and situation to Boston, I would probably be a season ticket holder but wouldn’t attend all the games because of the kids.
BC has a real attendance problem and I am not sure if there is a simple explanation or a simple solution. First let’s recognize that the economy is a major issue everywhere. College teams all across the country are falling well short of sellouts. Just look at TCU. They are a Top 10 private school with a nice history in a major metropolitan area and cannot fill their small stadium. I also think the growing and improving TV options dampens ticket demand? 10 years ago, the BC-CMU game wouldn’t have been on TV. If you wanted to see it, you would have to go to Alumni. Now there is ESPN U to cover the game. But even with the economy, the lackluster schedule, the weather issues, Halloween, a better TV experience, and all the other excuses that contribute to the attendance issues, there are two major factors that BC must address this offseason. Those issues are:
1. The fans that no longer attend games due to donor-based seating
2. The fans that no longer attend due to the diminished tailgating experience
Donor-based seating. BC hasn’t released stats around donor-based seating and its impact on sales. I’ve heard varied reports on the effect from as few as 500 tickets that were not renewed in some capacity to as many as 3,000 tickets that were not transferred in some capacity. Regardless of the true total, BC needs to spend some time this offseason and reach out to the people who gave up their tickets. Even if it is only 10 people, those are 10 people that BC could still use. At one point the previous ticket holders cared enough about BC football to have season tickets. We can get them back. We are still producing good football and have likable guys. It is an easier sell to say sorry and we want you back to a previous ticket holder than getting Boston-area fans to experience BC sports for the first time. You need as many season ticket holders as possible so that there is consistent demand regardless of the opponent. The shrunken season ticket holder base leaves more to the general public and allows more fans to pick and choose which games they will buy and attend.
Game day experience. BC has done a lot in things to make Saturdays more fun. There is the Eagle Walk. There are things for kids. There is are new bookstore and places to eat and shop. But the recurring comment I hear is that the tailgating policies are so restrictive and enforced with such cold and uncompromising zeal that it is a turn off to new and old fans. I am sure BC has good reasons for what they are doing and how they enforce policies, but they need to work on execution. And they need to spend offseason time reaching out to tailgaters. Listen to their complaints and explain why things are the way they are. Emails and letters are great communication tools to the masses but tone and touch can get lost in the delivery. Getting all the tailgaters on campus during the offseason in a "thank you" environment will help. It may also lead to some new ideas and solutions to tailgating policies.
I am disappointed that BC doesn't fill Alumni for any and all opponents. I don't think it makes a difference in the results on the field, but I do think the kids deserve a full stadium and I do think getting more people passionate about BC football is a good thing for the university. When there are so many factors, you need to start with one and work on it and for the Athletic Department it is not about commercials or promotions or any other gimmick. This offseason should be about thanking their current and former loyal customers and asking "how can we do it better."