Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Florida Bowls Seeing Decline in Attendance

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Florida Bowls Seeing Decline in Attendance

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits

TaxSlayer Bowl president Rick Catlett at least knows he's not alone.

When the Outback Bowl in Tampa announced an attendance of 51,119 on Monday who watched Florida dismantle Iowa 30-3, it became the sixth college bowl game among the eight in Florida to have a decline in attendance from the previous year.

Only the Russell Athletic in Orlando (an increase of 8,207 to watch Miami beat West Virginia) and the St. Petersburg Bowl (1,065 more to watch Mississippi State beat Miami of Ohio showed increases and in the case of the latter, it might not be bragging to claim your game went up to 15,717.

The TaxSlayer Bowl attendance was 43,102 for Georgia Tech's 33-18 victory over Kentucky last Saturday, down from 58,212 for Georgia-Penn State the previous year but still ahead of the national average for this season, reported by the Football Bowl Association as a bit more than 40,000 per game.

The Outback Bowl declined by slightly more than 2,000 over last year's game between Tennessee and Northwestern and the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl tumbled the most, going from 63,113 for last year's Florida-Michigan game to 46,063 to watch Heisman Trophy winner and Florida native Lamar Jackson of Louisville play LSU.

The Orange Bowl had a negligible decline of 183 fans as 67,432 watched Florida State edge Michigan 33-32. But that was compared to a College Football Playoff semifinal last year between Clemson and Oklahoma and the Orange Bowl TV ratings were up 68 percent (6.7 overnight) over the first New Year's Day Six game last season, the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.

Still, it was systemic of the overall decline in attendance for bowl games (the Sugar, Cotton, Liberty, Alamo and Texas bowls were among those experiencing lower crowds - the Cotton going down 23,197 and the Sugar 18,040).

The Associated Press, citing data from the FBA, reported on Tuesday that overall attendance in bowl games declined 4.94 percent this year, going from an average of 43,018 per game to 40,893 this season.

"I think the industry is healthy," Pete Derzis, senior vice president for ESPN Events, told the AP.

ESPN Events owns and operates 13 bowls, mostly involving non-Power 5 conference teams. All but four of the 41 bowl games are an ESPN network.

Catlett said the decline in attendance is a combination of factors.

"The number of bowl games has hurt and ESPN has made the final four the only thing that matters," Catlett said on Tuesday. "This began when the BCS [Bowl Championship Series] kicked in and now we're in the third year of the CFP and it's not the same any more. We now have bowl games where ESPN and the conferences are paying to run them. When Florida and Iowa couldn't sell out in the Outback Bowl, that told you something."

Catlett said the increase in bowl games has come about because the NCAA dropped bowl eligibility from a 7-5 record to 6-6 (and 5-7 to fill some of the slots, based on Graduation Success Rates), did away with minimum payouts and a rule that half the ticket sales had to be generated locally. …

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