It’s game day for Bronco Nation, and fans are dressed in blue and orange from head to toe. Tailgates surround them in every direction. Fellow fans and friends are throwing parties, excited to watch the Broncos take on their next opponent. People fill the stadium, with students bunched in the student section ready to cheer their team to victory. This type of game day is a rare sight this season, as home football attendance is lower in the 2017-18 season then it has in the past six years.
“We aren’t immune to some of the trends around the country in attendance for sporting events, whether at the professional or collegiate level,” said Brad Larrondo, Assistant Athletic Director for the Boise State football team. “There are so many options for people from an entertainment standpoint, so you have to constantly be looking at how to create the best event and experience so that people want to come back again and again and not just watch from their living room.”
Attendance of home football games has been on a downhill slope for the past six years, decreasing from 35,404 in 2012 to 32,370 this current season, says the Idaho Statesman. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Boise State is not the only school experiencing this issue. This is the sixth year attendance has decreased overall in the NCAA.
Communication professor Laurel Traynowicz teaches a class specifically related to these decreases. One theory Traynowicz has is that the ability to watch the game on TV is a large factor in the decrease of attendance.
“If I can turn on CBS sports and I can sit with my feet up, don’t have to deal with the crowd, don’t have to park- what’s getting me to the game?” Traynowicz said.
Larrondo and other staff are trying to find the answer to this question and figure out just what will bring fans and students into the game and stay for the duration.
“We are constantly doing surveys and market research in various form and look at all that data to determine trends, consumer feedback and also just to evaluate how we do on the customer service end of things,” Larrondo said. “It is important that we listen to our fans, and work as best we can to adjust as the market for live college sports changes.”
Traynowicz and her students are conducting studies related to what fans want to see that will enhance their experience, why they leave early and what will get the fans more engaged. Unfortunately, much of the results and information Traynowicz and her students have come to find is confidential. Although, it’s not too difficult to think of a few possible reasons students are typically arriving late to and leaving early from games. They call it “pre-gaming” for a reason, right?
“I think it’s the fourth top reason they leave. ‘I’m sick, I’m too drunk,’” s Traynowicz said.
On Sept. 2 the Broncos faced Troy on the blue when the temperature reached an intense 97 degrees.
“When it was really hot, they had people passing out. It was clear from observing that a lot of people had alcohol, and they were the ones who were passing out,” Traynowicz said.
According to sophomore and President of the Boise State student section, “The Corral,” Nathan Carroll mentioned another reason attendance may be declining.
“At the end of the day, if Boise State wins, people will come,” Carroll said.
The schedule has not brought many big teams to the turf this season. From playing Troy to Air Force, many fans may like to see the Broncos play better games with bigger competitors.
“People want to see higher competition and we haven’t had that as much this year. I would be willing to bet that in 2020, when Florida State comes to town, we will have a full sellout of the stadium. Especially if it’s a 5 p.m. kickoff and if Boise State is coming off of a good year,” Carroll said.
The student section has struck people’s interest as well, according to Larrondo.
“We are always looking at the best ways to engage our students. We see the students as a major piece of our stadium experience and want to make that an even bigger priority,” Larrondo said.
There is a section of the fan base who gets all crazy and dressed up for all the home events, and sits in the front row of the student section. Those fans make up The Corral.
“The Corral is the student section at any Boise State sporting event. The Executive Team in particular meets every other week and plans events for students. As for rules, it’s pretty much come to meetings and go to games, and you can reap the benefits. Student participation I would say is better at football games than past years,” Carroll said.
At bigger schools, Traynowicz explained, getting into the student section is extremely difficult, and is composed of upperclassmen who maintain the first few rows. If you are seen leaving during the middle of the game, you are banned from the student section–it’s competitive. Big, active student sections fill more seats and generate more revenue. Take Nebraska, for example-the Boneyard. They have sold out every game since 1962, and their section in the stadium holds 8,500 students. The Boneyard is known as the heart and soul of Husker game days.
“At Boise State, do you see people rushing the field? No. Why not? MAV Event services is there, and we have the fence. You can’t do it. Being able to go onto the field after a huge win-wouldn’t it be great?” Traynowicz said.
A big problem students face today is that this is a new generation. Millennials demand different needs and wants than those of past generations. If the football administration wants to see improvements in attendance, then they need to begin looking at how they can satisfy the needs of the future generations.
“We can’t bury our heads in the sand and always do what we’ve done just because that is how we’ve done it. We have to be able to adjust,” Larrondo said.