There have been some rather spirited conversations happening throughout the web as the attendance figures for the 2012 season was announced, and Syracuse had their lowest numbers of the Doug Marrone era. Coincidentally enough, this season was Marrone’s most successful in the Big East.
So what is to blame for the decrease in attendance? The Orange have the potential with a bowl win to be tied for their best season in a decade at 8-5. They have only lost two home games all season long, including only one loss in the Carrier Dome this season. A fan can purchase season tickets for as low as $100, with many various single-game promotions throughout the season to try to get people in to the building to support the team. But despite all of those things, less fans are coming in to Dome in in the past three seasons. I believe that there are many factors to this.
First, whether you like it or not, taking the Southern California game to New York City absolutely played a factor. I have spoken with a lot of fans who support the team through watching games on television, but when it comes to going to games at the Dome they would refuse because that would be supporting the decision to move the game away from Syracuse. Agree with it or not, some fans feel disrespected that what was considered by many to be the most high profile game on Syracuse’s schedule was taken away from them when it was initially announced to be a home game in the Carrier Dome.
I believe another major factor in the decreased attendance was the portrayal of this team for the first half of the season in the media. Following a 2-4 start against an out of conference schedule that many people regarded as the toughest in college football, it was portrayed throughout blogs and the media that this was a lame duck team, and that Doug Marrone was on the hot seat, with some people even calling for him to be fired. The attitude towards this program was that the sky was falling, and it frustrated me to no end. The fact that Marrone even had to be defended in the first place was ridiculous, and this was with fans that follow the team the closest. So why would a casual football fan check out the team with that kind of reputation following the program around? It took a string of wins against Pitt and UConn before a lot of fans began believing in this team again, and now fans are upset that Marrone wasn’t the coach of the year. I think fickleness throughout the fan base without a doubt contributed to a lack of attendance.
I also think it is worth noting of the games that were in the Dome this year. If you go to all of the games like I do this will also frustrate you and make no sense like it does to me, but the games played in the building has a direct result with attendance. I wrote a piece not too long ago about all of the various home games and the attendance for those seasons, and if you look at the past I believe it is fair to say that had that USC game been in the Dome, the attendance would without a doubt be higher than what it was this year. While I wish fans would come out no matter what, pitching the Big East as the main reason why people should come in the building is not the best selling point in the world.
What people say as a solution to this attendance problem is obvious: win games. And the Orange have done that down the stretch, going 6-2 in their last 8 games. But unfortunately for the Orange, their home schedule was very heavy on the first half of the season, so once Syracuse started finding success, they didn’t have a lot of home games left for fans to come out. Why fans didn’t show up to the Louisville game is absolutely beyond me. I have no explanation for that one, but it still should be noted that it was one of our more highly attended games of the season.
So where does Syracuse go from here? Heading in to the ACC will absolutely help attendance numbers. Losing the Notre Dame games to New York will hurt attendance big time, and some fans may continue to stay away from the Dome because of it. Had those games been in the Carrier Dome, I definitely believe that attendance numbers would be much different simply because of the popularity of the opposing team. I have spoken with the ticket office, and they have told me that while they are unsure for a certainty what the season ticket prices will be for next year, they are fairly confident that the $100 touchdown town package will continue, and I believe this is a must. One of the main things Syracuse has going are cheap tickets, and they should continue to provide them to the fans that are loyal enough to buy the tickets year in and year out. I think another big thing that would help the team’s attendance would be to win the pinstripe bowl. Probably the biggest crowd I can remember from recent years was the season opener last year against Wake Forest, even if it only lasted for a half. Winning definitely solves everything, and with new teams to play I believe the attendance will without a doubt go up next season.
What do you blame the attendance problems on? What should Syracuse do to address the issue?