MINNEAPOLIS, Minn (CBS) — Outside the walls of Minnesota’s magnificent TCF Bank Stadium, the party raged on past kickoff time of 11 a.m.
Bars and beer gardens along the streets of the Dinkytown district were filled with fans clad in Minnesota’s maroon and gold. A fun day of football was just beginning. But the game itself was missing from the game day experience.READ MORE: Supreme Court Signals Support For Upholding Mississippi Abortion Ban
Student attendance is down seven percent since 2009, according to InsideHigherEd.com. The scene outside the Golden Gophers’ state-of-the-art stadium matches that of even college football’s most cherished cathedrals. Even in the storied Big Ten, fans — namely students — aren’t showing up for kickoff. Many don’t even enter the stadium.
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis was the latest to question where the students are going, that after the southeast corner of Spartan Stadium — the student section — cleared out by the fourth quarter of MSU’s escape of Nebraska. Hollis expressed “disappointment and embarrassment” of the situation.
“We will work together to build a student section that enhances our teams ability to win championships,” Hollis tweeted. “From kickoff to the end of the game.”
Spoiler alert: the old guys in suits don’t understand what those meddling kids really want.
College athletic directors act surprised that students aren’t showing up. Some are arrogant enough to believe that a program’s past should draw fans, no matter what. If the national-power Spartans can’t keep their students around, can anyone be surprised Illinois doesn’t have enough students to fill its traditional “Block I” each game?
Illinois students aren’t going to show up at Memorial Stadium because of names like Red Grange and Dick Butkus. What have you done for me lately?
Many students won’t even show up for tailgaters before an 11 a.m. game. What happened the night before this early morning ritual? A Friday in a college town for college kids.READ MORE: Jussie Smollett Trial: CPD Detective Recounts Actor's Description Of Attack Police And Prosecutors Have Called A Hoax
Those early risers or students brave enough to shed a hangover show up for pregame fun. There are house parties, tailgaters with food and Fireball shots to pass around. That bar down the street has a pitcher deal, too. Who wants to be the buzzkill and end the fun at 10:30 a.m. for kickoff of Illinois and Purdue?
This is the logic of the average college student. And athletic directors are naive enough to think an enhanced cell signal in stadiums — for Snapchats and that book of faces, they imagine — will bring students away from the parties and into the bitterly cold stadiums.
Hey, athletic directors, do you really want students to show up for kickoff? Bring the party inside the stadium. Take the financial hit if you truly mean it.
Allow alcohol sales in the stadium. Better yet, make it discounted for students. A beer goes for $2 at the bar down the street, and it’s heated, too. Offer a wide variety of food options, and make them affordable for a college kid’s dime.
End the 11 a.m. kickoffs, as well. College kids are up early each morning for classes. These games are turning into an obligation. What’s the motivation to freeze in a stadium and pay $4.50 for a Diet Coke when watching on the comfortable couch or surrounded by good times at a bar is an option?
Students left a game at Spartan Stadium with the defending Rose Bowl champs fighting for a place in the College Football Playoff. Even with Minnesota fighting for contention in the wide-open Big Ten West, there were rows and rows of empty seats in the student section.
The diehard fans are willing to brave the cold and fork over the extra bucks. But the average fan is staying behind more often than not, leaving empty seats in the stadium.MORE NEWS: Fourth Student Dies In Michigan High School Shooting
If college athletic directors really care for change, they know where to find them.