Monday, September 29, 2014

When will the SuperFans grads change the BC Fan culture?

Michigan's attendance issues remain news in the college football world, but this article on Deadspin highlighted something that I think is important to BC Football. The article delves into the supply-demand relationship for sports, but slipped in this regarding student tickets:
"Current students are not that important [to ticket sales], per se," said Dan Rascher, a sports management professor at the University of San Francisco. "But you're trying to turn those current students into former students who are still fans decades later. You want students, when they become alumni, to have that attachment and come back for the games, and that's what's concerning athletic departments."

Despite some issues with basketball and the fairweather nature of any group of fans, BC's has a strong student section for Football. The SuperFans have made supporting BC Football cool for 16 years. However, I don't know if that SuperFan culture has carried over enough to when the SuperFans become Alumni. Now I know the caveats:  the Spaz's years dampened enthusiasm, recent grads move out of New England, recent grads are broke, etc. But even students who endured the Spaz years still have enough high points (bowls, GameDay, Luke Kuechly) to grow the attachment referenced in the Michigan piece.

I think it is that attachment that is missing from all of the pre-SuperFan Alumni. I know a large portion of loyal, older fans were turned off by the DBS, but I think for decades there was a detachment to BC sports. The Flutie runs or the Coughlin moments had a lightning in the bottle feel but otherwise there was an overriding cynicism to our fanbase. Or at least that I what I felt when I first arrived at BC in the mid-90s. The football games were social and the game was really secondary. So when the diehards were driven away, the casual fans didn't backfill because of the detachment.

The oldest SuperFans are creeping towards 40. Even with conflicts like kids or geography, the largest portion of these SuperGrads should still live in the northeast and still have BC in their blood. I know that BC keeps creating opportunities for young alums (GOLD). That's good. Now we just need a few more classes to graduate and then maybe we will have enough people that we can finally fill Alumni consistently. Winning wouldn't hurt either.


Joe Gravellese said...

The GOLD section has been interesting. It was standing and raucous for the Pitt and USC games (I don't sit in the GOLD section but that's what it looked like from my seats).

I think that because the established culture among alums is to show up late, leave early, be quiet, and skip 2 games a year, it's easy for young alums to fall in to that mode. Peer pressure is a powerful motivator.

Hoib said...

All the games are on TV now. It makes it easier not to go to the trouble and expense of actually going to the game. I live in CT and it's 3 hours each way to attend the game. 20 years ago only 3 or 4 games were on TV, which lead to a greater desire to go up and see the game.

eagleboston said...

Hoib makes an excellent point. As recently as 10 years ago, fewer than half of the BC games were on tv. If you wanted to see the Eagles, you had to go to the game.

Still, I love a football Saturday in Chestnut Hill and I have traveled out for one game each year the past 11 years straight. The colors, the bands, the pageantry, the food and the football make for a great afternoon or evening. If I lived closer, I can't say that I would make every home game, but I would attend 3 to 4 for sure.

Claver2010 said...

First of all, people underestimate the complete destruction that Spaz did to the program. I've heard from people inside that they lost roughly 10k season tickets. That's 20-25% of your stadium gone.

Second, BC needs to recognize the importance of the social aspect associated with the football experience, especially with the "SuperGrads". Right now it's too expensive & too restrictive.

The lots are 2/3 empty and clearly are mispriced.

The rules are too restrictive and frankly dumb. Bates has been here for 2 years and there have been no changes to the tailgating limitations. We have mayors in both cities who are alums, if not now, when?

The dumb rules:

Not allowing people on campus till the minute of tailgating starts (which is in stark contrast to Foxboro despite the 3 hour limitation).

You can have beer on Shea, you can have beer in the Beacon Garage, but God forbid you bring beer from 1 to the other.

If BC is winning, great. It cures all. But as we build back from the abyss of Spaz, the gameday experience needs to improve in concert. Then you'll have more support from the SuperGrads.

SaturdaysOnShea said...

I hope the GOLD Section stays and grows in popularity. This is my first year with tickets there. I've sat there for USC and CSU. Both were very different environments, with USC reminding me of my undergrad years (standing the whole time, leaving the game hoarse) and CSU being a more sit and watch the game and get loud on key plays. I think moving forward it will help energize the rest of the Alumni base.

Similar to what Claver said, I don't think you can underestimate the damage Spaz did to the SuperGrads. We have a whole string of classes who's majority of time at BC football games was spent watching Spaz and so don't know the environment that can surround a successful football team. Will this make them less likely to come back as alums now? I don't know, but I certainly think it will have an impact.

We all know the tailgating rules are archaic. I will never understand why you cannot walk alcohol onto Shea. That just makes absolutely no sense. Much of the attendance issues can be solved by a more pleasant gameday (read tailgating) atmosphere.

eagle1331 said...

I strongly believe that BC does not properly nurture it's relationships with Alumni, despite my love of the school.

You often get badgered as soon as you are out of school to make that first donation, and I think that puts a sour taste in your mouth right away, but my real issue is that like it or not, we are a "what have you done for me lately" culture.

In the 6 years since I have graduated, BC has hosted 1 truly open bar for Alumni in my area, whether it was South Florida or New York City. Most events either require you to buy a ticket, require you to have made a donation over the past year to get invited, or are cash bar. Alumni groups in the area have even paid out of pocket to try and combat this, but it doesn't necessary help.

By stark contrast, my brother is a UCF grad, 3 years younger, and their school and sports are on the rise/growing. In New York City, they often have triple digits at their Alumni Events, representatives from the school hanging out, are mostly free, and almost all include some food/beverage incentive to attend.

Just because you were good to a plant for 4 years doesn't mean it is going to continue to thrive once you stop watering and feeding it in year 5.

Boston College needs to take a long, hard look at its Alumni Relations before it cries pour. They regular cater to "the 1%" for obvious reasons, but $5-$10-$100 goes a long way too, and they seemingly write those people off. Don't post an article in the BC Mag about how you had an exclusive Bruce Springsteen concert at the Stone Pony where elite donors and celebrities were invited when people that don't make as much as still giving as much as they can afford to. Or at least, if you do, don't expect those people to "appreciate" BC as much 5, 10, or 100 years after they graduate as those that were babied there after.

SaturdaysOnShea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SaturdaysOnShea said...

With alumni events, BC, once again, has it backwards. They stick out their hands first and then invite you into the event.

BC needs to host the cocktail party, after-work happy hour, Christmas party, whatever it may be. Bring people in, remind them what they loved about their school (seeing old friends, meeting new ones, sharing memories) and then ask them for the money. Have a way for people to make a gift right then and there when they are most willing to do it.

BC will always chase the 1% because they are the ones who get a Stokes Hall or new baseball field built. But eagle1331 is correct in that they forget that $150 may be meaningful to some, even if it isn't so much to BC.

Napolean Bonaparte said...

All good comments here. Improving the parking and improving the tailgating situation is critical for the average fan. People need to remember having a good time socially. That brings them back and builds a following, donations and season ticket holders. Otherwise, you can see the game better in high def without any hassles. No way has BC put the energy and its connections into solving/improving these long standing issues.

AlbanyEagle said...

OK, so now seems an appropriate time/place to get into the new wristband policy on Shea field.

Starting this year, along with the parking passes, those patrons with Shea Field privileges were mailed 10 color-coded wristbands per game with an accompanying letter explaining that there was a new policy in place to "enhance the gameday experience". The wearer of a wristband is allowed "priority access" to Shea Field in the event that it has reached "capacity", at which point non-wristband-wearers will not be allowed to enter.

Apparently "capacity" is entirely arbitrary. As Claver noted, lots are often not filled, and Shea in particular is virtually never full. At the Pitt game, the wristband crackdown went into effect while vast expanses of field were wide open.

The intention of the policy apparently is to avoid the drunken mob scene that many of us have witnessed on occasion (e.g. Notre Dame game among others), when Shea gets overrun with drunken students. I suspect it was implemented in response to complaints by down-in-front types, and to a certain extent I can appreciate that. But from my perspective it's a big mistake.

When I come from Albany I always try to encourage my BC friends in/around Boston to come join us to tailgate. Their kids are younger than mine, with crazy schedules, and usually we don't know who might show up at any given game. Which is totally fine with me, until now. Knowing they might be turned away without a wristband, they are now even less interested in making the effort to drag their kids there. Mailing the wristbands ahead of time is not realistic without knowing if they can make it. Suffice to say, none of these guys is lining up to make big donations for the privilege of parking on Shea Field.

Even worse, my son, a BC freshman, can't join us unless he wants to abandon his new friends who we would love to feed and get to know better. It is just not logistically possible to get around this.

I could go on and on even more.

Big Jack Krack said...

All good comments and observations.

Hey, here's an idea going forward from the above: BC need to say Welcome Alumni and friends and friends of college football. We hope that you have a nice time on our campus today, and especially at the game between the Eagles and .........

This is not rocket science - throw out the welcome mat, BC. And develop your ideas and policies from there.

You can bring the crowds in without compromising the standards. Let people have a good time, and they will surprise you how un-destructive they will be.

Provide many tents for fans to claim first come first served everywhere possible near the stadium. The donors will still donate for the choicest spots - it's tax deductible. And allow tailgating, with modifications on Brighton Campus.

Let's go BC - that we can't find solutions is B.S.

CT said...

For those of us who can't get to the games, these comments are both enlightening and discouraging. It's astounding that they have remained problems for many years now. The police were jerks back in the mid-90's, too. The space issues remain, for the most part, the same. Sadly, it seems the attitudes have as well.

CatabEagle said...

I echo what many say here; BC has a long way to go with its Alumni relationships, to the point that its entire alumni operations program leave many with sour tastes upon departure with BC. To put it in other words, I believe there are few better places to spend your 4 collegiate years than BC. But there are few worse when it comes to alumni relationships. The administrative side of boston college is toxic.

As an anecdote; I arranged a career night on a Friday night for members of a group on campus, and brought in several grads of high levels of success (big 4 partners, law firm partners, senior execs at Fortune 500 companies, and a principal at a local high school) to come speak to these students on how to prepare for their post-collegiate careers. As this was a friday night, the staff member (non-student) at the BC A/V department couldn't believe the gaul I had to hold such an event on a Friday, that she wasn't staying one minute past 4pm, and that she'd have to hold my driver's license for the weekend in order to ensure she got her (BC's) stuff back.

If you're a local, involved alum, this happens (pardon my caps) ALL THE TIME. There's no accountability within the administration and after a while, it can sour the whole school on you. Thank god the students, and your close alum friends, keep you coming back.

End of rant.

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