A post of the schedule changes a few days ago led to a discussion about how to motivate folks to attend Iowa State games late in the year. The basis of the argument is mostly made on the observation of dwindling number of fans making the trip to the Jack as the season wears on, and that is an observation that I’ve seen as well (minus games involving those folks west of the Missouri river…but there might be a little bit of traveling crowd bias there as well as the obvious bump in attendance due to the rivalry).
So naturally I did a bit of web searching (but just a bit…researching things like this aren’t the most exciting thing to do), and I came upon the NCAA release of attendance figures for the 2010 season. There are some interesting things to note in there. Let’s take a look at how ISU did in terms of tickets sold (what is actually measured, I assume).
Here is Iowa State’s stat line: Total attendance 317,767. Percent Capacity: 82.54. Average Attendance: 45,395.
Bottom line: ISU was 44th in total attendance in the FBS, out of 120 teams. That put them 8th in the Big XII, behind Texas, Nebraska, A&M, Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech. They were, however, helped out by having 7 games in the sample, while others only had 6. Thus, if you look at average attendance (which you should), Kansas State and Colorado make the jump over ISU, bumping the Clones down to 10th in the conference, with Kansas right behind and Baylor a distant 12th with 40,043.
What I find most interesting, however, is how the percent capacity figures stack up. ISU (82.54%) is truly struggling here compared to the conference. Kansas posted an 89.26%, Oklahoma State came in with an 84.38%, while Baylor filled up 80.09% of their seats. Everyone else in the conference posted a 90 or higher percentage. ISU needs to sell the tickets they have. That is blatantly obvious.
The basketball team seems to have done a pretty good job of drawing fans throughout the year, and they finished last in the conference (but were a ton of fun to watch). So I wonder, what is the difference between the hardwood and the gridiron that makes these trends?
None of this answers the original question though, how can Iowa State keep the Jack packed throughout the year? Obviously, putting a solid product on the field keeps people interested, given that it makes for a higher likelihood that the team will be playing meaningful games late in the season. With all the uncertainty surrounding ISU at pretty much every skill position on offense, we will just have to wait and see in terms of how strong of a product will be on the field.
One thing I think the fans should be responding to better than they have been, however, is the passion displayed on the field. How can someone not want to watch the team play after seeing the team fight down to the wire against Texas? Or light up the scoreboard against Texas Tech last year? My gut says it is because ISU has had a hard time playing with consistency. Sure, it’s fun to watch the Clones play the role of underdog reaching out and knocking down the powers that be every once in a while, but it is also disheartening to see them come out flat and get run over (see: Iowa last year), look listless against teams they should beat (see: Colorado), or give up ridiculous 4th down conversions to a punter of all people at a critical juncture in the game (I shouldn’t have to mention that one).
While that may seem like a pointless rant, what I am trying to say is that fans will really start to respond once this team has established an identity that doesn’t leave the passive fan wondering which team is going to show up on a given week. I think that team is coming. I may have too much optimism in the impact that Rhoads has in these kids to believe otherwise, but I think that after a couple years, this coaching staff has the players not only believing in themselves, but in the system they have in place.
Taking a look at this year’s schedule:
Sept 3 - UNI
Sept 10 - Iowa
Sept 16 - @UConn
Oct 1 - Texas
Oct 8 - @Baylor
Oct 15 - @Mizzou
Oct 22 - A&M
Oct 29 - @Texas Tech
Nov 5 - Kansas
Nov 18 - Oklahoma State
Nov 26 - @Oklahoma
Dec 3 - @K-State
I think ISU has a schedule that lends itself to big crowds. The first game of the year is usually a good crowd, and the Iowa game will obviously be packed. After that is Texas on October 1st, and the ‘Horns will be looking for revenge after last year’s thing of beauty. There isn’t a home game again until October 22nd against A&M, which I think would leave folks itching to get back and see the team in action live again. The Kansas game on November 5th could see a lull in attendance, especially if Kansas is terrible to watch again, but the next game (after a bye) against Oklahoma State is a Friday night game. The atmosphere of big-time football under the lights hopefully will be a strong lure for folks to come out in droves. Seriously, night games are the best. You’ve got all day for tailgating too….even if the weather is crappy.
Sorry for the obvious rip-off of your title Mark, but I think it’s the only appropriate thing to say this time of year. Kickoff against UNI can’t come soon enough.