Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is TV Trying To Kill College Football?

It is becoming evident that television's insatiable thirst for "content" is having a serious detrimental effect on college football. just minutes ago, I flipped the TV by a game between the University of Miami (Ohio) and the University of Buffalo, attended roughly by the population of a small dorm at Roanoke College. It was sad to see.

I can't find the official attendance at this point (the game's still being played), but the crowd is tiny on the side we can see and quiet on the side we can't in 30,000-seat Yeager Stadium. My guess the numbers are in low four digits.

Schools in Division I must average 15,000 per home game every other year if they are to stay there. That's a one of a number of requirements to be at that top level. In 2007, three MAC teams, including Buffalo, averaged fewer than 15,000 customers. Kent State was at 9,000. Last year Buffalo had a good team and went to a bowl. Those averages were without Tuesday games.

These are a couple of also-ran Middle American Conference teams that would draw decent crowds to their Saturday day games, but have no chance at large attendance on a Wednesday, school-night in a northern climate.

Earlier this season, the University of Memphis, which plays in the 62,000-seat Liberty Bowl, has a student body of more than 20,000 and is in Conference USA played before about 4,117 people in a Tuesday, rainy home game that was made for TV. Low attendance helped get Memphis' coach fired. (In an unrelated matter, UM's president is my former sister-in-law, a lovely woman named Shirley Raines.)

With college football on television virtually every night of the week now (Mondays seem to belong to pro football, but I'm not sure that will last), the product has become extremely thin and uninteresting, especially to the fans of the schools involved in many of these second-level games. The Tuesday and Wednesday games are especially sad and my guess is they're detracting from Saturdays because of saturation.

It would be lovely if television would exercise a little bit of thought and caution before televising these games, but that would certainly be a first.

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