At the football home opener Saturday afternoon, Alumni felt empty. While the student section was a wall of SuperFan yellow, looking across the stadium, one couldn’t help but wonder where everyone else was. Statistically speaking, 29,262 fans were in attendance, two-thirds of Alumni’s 44,500 capacity. Last year, the average attendance at home games was 34,270, or 77% capacity. So what is keeping BC from selling out, or at least attracting the average 3/4?
First of all, though this was the home opener, the game was against Maine, a team many fans rightfully assumed would be routed by BC. The fact that fans may have felt they already knew the result might have been a strong deterrent. Fans may be waiting to get tickets for a game that they believe is against a more exciting opponent.
Moreover, the game was during Labor Day Weekend, a time when many people are vacationing and enjoying the last unofficial days of summer at the beach. In the same vein, it’s very hot in Alumni, and sitting in the sun for three plus hours can be brutal. Sweating at a football game may not have been on the agenda for a relaxing family weekend.
So, is there anything that can be done to boost attendance?
Last year, boston.com published this article about Massachusetts' apathy for BC sports. The author’s thesis read as follows: “Boston College, despite its membership in the nationally prominent Atlantic Coast Conference and its lack of local competition in the major sports, consistently fails to command the Commonwealth’s attention.” Bostonians do not care about BC athletics the way that cities in other parts of the country care about their respective universities.
When students graduate and move away from the Boston area, they will be hard-pressed to buy season tickets and attend more than the occasional game. If BC really wants to sell out Alumni, they need to not only engage alumni living in the area, but also recruit local fans. Many of the top football programs in the country greatly involve the communities surrounding the school, and people who never attended the actual university are some of the most rabid fans.
Another problem with selling out stadiums is that watching a televised game can be much more convenient and comfortable than being present at the stadium. While football is exceptionally popular, it has lots of breaks in the action and sometimes it seems that live football is just players setting up over and over for long stretches of time—only to play for a few seconds. From the comfort of home, there are better angles and views, replays, explanations and commentary. If BC can’t sell fans on the experience of watching a game live with thousands of other crazy fans, they won’t go to games.
Moreover, BC has always been much stricter than other schools about what will be permitted during a tailgate; they have also recently changed their tailgating policy. It is much, much harder (and costly) to get one of the best tailgating spots on campus, otherwise known as Shea Field. The cost of a spot in Shea is $2,500 for a graduate of the last decade (GOLD alumni) and $5,000 for all other alumni. Each pass holder can distribute 20 tickets; without one it is nearly impossible to get into Shea. According to Bryan Amos, “the aim all along has been to maintain a family friendly atmosphere with the safety and enjoyment of our guests who hold Shea passes being paramount.” Maybe fans are annoyed with these changes or maybe the BC “family friendly” football experience is less exciting and marketable than the wild revelry at other schools.
So while Saturday's crowd may have been disappointing, the attendance is hopefully not indicative of waning interest in BC football. One thing is certain—the student section was packed. The SuperFans of today are the season pass holders of tomorrow, and a loud, exciting student section contributes enormously to the experience of all attendees.
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