More anecdotal evidence that TV may be hurting footballeven as it drives the collegiate car: Clemson can't sell tickets to a New Year's Eve bowl game less than 130 miles away: they may have to eat half their allotment.
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Maybe it's just a tough economy or maybe something more fundamental. Clemson A.D. told the Post and Courier this:
âWhat value-adds are you going to give ticket holders that makes them feel it is still a good allocation of their entertainment dollar to come to a game? Yes, television is here and they are a great partner with collegiate sports. They give a large check each and every year and I donât know if we could exist without (television). We need to coexist. â¦The NFL, in mine and your lifetime, has been the most successful (sports league) and it has recognized the fact that there are things that have to be done to keep their stadiums full.â
The article goes on to say that Auburn has started to allow tablets and laptops in their stadium (stray thought: you can't really keep iPad minis out because they're so easy to conceal).
We're not sure that's the answer, but when your biggest partner is screwing up your gate, you need to think of something. Clemson's answers, so far, have been HD screens and improved phone reception.
In other words, conceding to the screens, which is not going to persuade many people to spend more time watching the field.
We're not necessarily farsighted, but when you look at the endless expenses and the declining ticket sales, and the fact that almost every school loses money on the game, there's one way forward: smaller rosters and rules designed to help the offensive side.
It may not seem obvious right now, but one way to do this is to reduce liberal substitution. Passed in 1964 to simplify some confusing rules and to theoretically allow more open offenses, it has become more complicated over the years.
Title IX was adopted eight years later. Prior to that, and in a much less demanding financial era, schools could easily carry 80+ football scholarships, even schools like Duke and Northwestern.
Since then, though, the requirements of Title IX have radically changed athletic programs, generally for the better. Fans take great pride in women's programs like Duke basketball, UNC soccer and various others locally and around the country.
Football, though, still requires large numbers of players and multiple platoons. It would be interesting to limit substitutions to, say, four per down and see what might happen as players like Michael Vick, Tony Gonzalez, Jerry Rice, Jimmy Graham, Cam Newton, Bo Jackson, Randy Moss and so on would adapt.
For one thing, the game would become more open rather than less, which would increase fan interest (the powers that be might consider limiting huddles to one per offensive series too, which would keep the game moving).
For another, scholarships could be reduced as specialties would be lessened.
A faster, leaner less expensive game would keep attention focused on the field, keep people watching and keep the ratings high as well.
We like football, but the time it takes to get anything done is worse than baseball. And baseball has the considerable advantage of being something that you do during the summer and more or less during a picnic.
In other words, things are reversed: in baseball, you watch when things happen and can safely ignore much of the rest while you enjoy your warm summer evening. In football, you watch a few seconds of action at a time, then watch a huddle, then a few seconds of action, then a huddle, then a punt.
It can be a long time before something exciting happens on a football field, but in baseball, it doesn't matter nearly as much. It's much more conducive to socializing, drinking and having a nice meal. Football is much more demanding on a fan.