UConn’s attendance and Power 5 conferences

Rentschler Field

Rentschler Field

John F. Silver

Doing the morning news look-around I came across another expansion story that kind of sets the table where UConn is in the grand scheme of things — left behind.

Here’s the article per CBS Sports’ Jeremy Fowler and it’s a good read if you haven’t been obsessing over conference realignment (which if you are reading the blog, you already know all the info).

There was a line that caught my eye:

It wasn’t UConn’s Northeast footprint or its 21st national ranking among public universities that lost it. The lack of football tradition and game-day environment at Rentschler Field (capacity 40,000) did, according to an ACC source.

Lack of football tradition and game day environment?

Those are code words for something. Let’s take it at face value and look at attendance.

The Huskies were 67th out of 120 teams in attendance last year at just over 34,672.

How about compared to the Power 5 (hate that term)?

UConn only had a higher-attendance last season than a single team in a Power 5 conference — Duke (79th at 28,170 per game) — which plays in a stadium with a track around it like a high school field.

 

The Huskies aren’t far away from the power conferences in attendance.

Big Ten bound Maryland is 64th (36,023) and Boston College 63rd (37,020)  with Syracuse 61st  (37,953) and Pitt 58th (41,494).

This is where the stadium size of Rentschler Field becomes a problem.

All those stadiums are much bigger than UConn’s Rentschler Field and when a big game comes to town can support the crush.

Many of those teams have several marquee games on the schedule that pack the house. The Huskies can’t really fit much more than they are getting per game, though the decline of 4,000 per game in attendance from a high of 38,000+ in 2009 to 34,000 in 2012 has to be of utmost concern.

South Florida, which plays in Raymond James Stadium and only uses the lower bowls, does expand the entire stadium when it brings in a marquee team, such as Florida State (69,383).  That helped bring USF’s attendance to 44,134 last year, 106 percent of capacity. The Bulls have a way to get more people in the seats when they have a top team come in.

The Huskies are playing at 86.8 percent capacity and have been in the 90s some years.  Evan at a sold-out 40,000 Rentschler Field, the Huskies’ ceiling as far as attendance would be is 60th in the nation this past year.

This is a problem to many schools in the expansion process.

UConn is a perfect example of this. The team is bringing in 2,500 seats to accommodate Michigan fans in the game this year. That brings up the Michigan allotment to 5,000 seats and UConn’s tickets for the game is 37,500.  Remember, Michigan tried earnestly to move the game to a bigger stadium.

For Western Michigan? That’s more than enough tickets. But for Michigan?

That ticket is going to be hard to find come September.

UConn would have a good chance at getting 45,000 to 50,000 fans in the building for that game, maybe more.

UConn’s scheduling problem is going to become more difficult as the years go on. There are future games against Boise State and BYU on the horizon, as well as a game against Tennessee. The Huskies need at least one big-time home game a year for the fans out of conference and four and five years out it’s going to be difficult to convince the big boys to come play in that stadium.

UConn isn’t getting into one of the power conferences without a stadium upgrade (either as a condition or like Rutgers that did it on spec), so it’s best to get that seed planted right now with the powers that be.

For a long time, any time the word stadium expansion was mentioned it was shot down in public and private.

The refrain: “Let’s see them sell-out their current stadium first” was what I heard most often from journalists, administrators to the hot dog vendors.

That won’t fly anymore.

The truth is every single team in expansion process has had a bigger stadium and higher attendance.

That is not a coincidence and it only gets more difficult as the years go by.

In the meantime, the best thing for UConn fans to do is to buy those  season tickets.




0 comments