I mentioned on air today that a member of the Arizona State athletic department asked me what more they could do to fix ASU’s attendance problems. My answer was simply, “I don’t know.”
The current condition of the athletic department is the best it’s been in years. Todd Graham is a fan-sensitive coach that is in the running for national coach of the year. The players are not constantly getting in trouble with the law. The team is, once again, on top of the standings in the Pac-12 South. Everything is in place for a team to be the toast of the town with very few people lifting their glasses, as only 53,000 people attended homecoming against Utah.
I decided to write about the issue because of an e-mail I received that was very respectful but very telling as well. Since I’m sharing this e-mail with you without knowing the writer, I think it’s unfair to give his name. I’ll write my feelings right after the writer’s five points (which are left verbatim).
As a 52 year old die hard ASU fan I can tell you a few things about ASU and going to games.
1. 8:00 PM start. Really! TV shouldn’t rule the start time.
The same thing has happened in the Big 10, Big 12 and SEC for decades. It has no effect on their attendance.
2. There are more than one reason ASU is remolding the stadium. One is it’s just too large. This isn’t the Midwest. You’re not going to 72,000 (pre-remodel) fans to go to the games with an 8:00 PM start in that stadium. See Cardinals attendance in new stadium.
I hear that a lot. “This is not the Midwest,” or “this is not the SEC,” are used as statements of fact but they shouldn’t be conclusions used for attendance issues.
Is it wrong of me to believe we can be better than we are?
I’m not saying we have to equal Ohio State in fan support, but I think it’s fair to try to outnumber Alabama’s spring game attendance when ASU is playing a November divisional game in perfect weather between two top 20 teams to determine the division lead.
Think about these numbers: 200,000 ASU alumni live within 20 minutes of Sun Devil Stadium, almost 200,000 people live in Tempe and over 5 million people live in Maricopa County. If ASU could attract 10 percent of the local alumni, 5 percent of Tempe residents and 0.9 percent of the rest of Maricopa County, Sun Devil Stadium would need to be expanded.
3. HD TV is just too good to bother with going to the games. Much more enjoyable to watch with replays and commentary on a good TV.
Two games ago, ASU was in Seattle to play the Huskies. That night, more Phoenicians were watching the Kansas City Royals than Arizona State. Obviously, that was a road game for ASU so it doesn’t directly relate to the emailer’s opinion, but it shows the lack of attention local sports fans pay to the Devils.
To your point of HD versus attending: with thousands of empty seats, the ASU game received a 6.5 TV rating. By way of comparison, Brady versus Manning earned a 19.1 and Sunday Night Football earned a 13.7. That means twice as many people in Phoenix are interested in the exploits of Joe Flacco as opposed to Todd Graham. Moreover, three times as many people in Phoenix wanted to watch UofA’s Rob Gronkowski than they wanted to see Taylor Kelly.
With the choice of going to Sun Devil Stadium or watching the game on TV, most Phoenicians are choosing neither.
4.This is AZ. unless you are the Cardinals (didn’t think I would ever be saying that) you are not going to get a full house unless it’s a playoff or the best of the best teams being played. See Coyotes vs Red wings or D-Backs vs Dodgers. ASU will get a large crowd this week for a daytime game vs Norte Dame.
If you’re really a die-hard fan of the home team, why does it matter who they’re playing?
5. It’s a huge mistake for ASU to remodel that stadium and not cover it and put in AC. The normal 7:00 PM starts the first 4-6 weeks due to heat issues is ridiculous. They needed to spend whatever it took and put a lid on the stadium so day games could be played without killing the players or the fans.
Interesting you used the word “they.” When ASU is winning I hear “we” but when ASU needs to spend money I hear “they.” Where do you think the money comes from? It comes from “WE.” The money comes from boosters and donors but it also comes from ticket sales. Marketing companies see thousands of empty seats and low TV ratings which makes it much more difficult for the ASU athletic department to get a third-party rights holder to pay a premium for the product. I can guarantee you that Arizona State would be glad to “spend whatever it takes to put a lid on the stadium” if they had fans who did whatever it takes to support the program.
A lot of Arizona State fans have no problem telling their university what they can do for the fans but not a lot fans want to hear what they can do for their university.
The Devils are going. The question is: are “we” doing enough to keep up with “they.”