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Now, Spartan Athletic Director Mark Hollis has expressed his displeasure. But, there is plenty of blame to go around for the lack of Spartan student enthusiasm on a cold night. Sure, the ES shares in disappointment that students didn't stick around until the end of the game. However, if you want to play the blame-game, let's be honest about it.
The game was late. It's an 8 pm kickoff. And, it was cold (40 degrees), with a forecast for rain (which ended up being a mist). Whose fault is this? Well, Michigan State and the Big Ten conference can blame themselves for kowtowing to the media interests (ABC, ESPN, and its own Big Ten Network) who schedule these prime time games in exchange for big money. If many of these students decided to go and instead cram for mid-terms (OK, I doubt it, but maybe a few did use that time wisely to study), then I'd argue Hollis' comments are, well, hollow.
Actually, many complained about the lateness - for me, it wasn't exactly great getting home at 1 am.
THE HISTORY OF TV
OK, now let's follow this conversation. My father, a Spartan alum who lives near Seattle, came to town this weekend and went to the game with me. Last week, he visited my Uncle Denny up in Traverse City. Denny is a longtime Spartan (with whom I tailgated back in the 1980s). Here is the conversation retold to me:
- ES' Dad: "Denny you going to the game?"
- Denny: "Why bother? I can sit here, right in my chair, with my drink and watch it on my big-screen tv."
Way, way, waaaaay back in the 1950s (the ES invites you to read the 1952 Collier's college football preview), colleges were afraid to televise football games because "attendance will suffer as people will choose to instead watch the game at home." Well, that failed to materialize, and instead television, and eventually cable tv, helped enhance the marketability and interest of college football to the billion-dollar enterprise it is today.
But, now, after all those years, the prophecy from the 1950s seems to be happening. Major college football programs and the mass media enterprises have created a product that looks even better on television. Big time college football powers can blame themselves for creating such a great product that people can sit at home and watch it instead of going to the game. Today, colleges from the Big Five conferences can make enough money from television broadcasts (more than $1 billion per year) even if the stadium is half full.
Whose to blame? Universities and big-time athletic directors should point to themselves. If college athletic directors want to keep their business model (and complain about there not being enough revenue to feed the expenses), then find a way to add value to the product to get those consumers (student attendees) interested.
MSU has already won the Rose Bowl for the first time in thirty years; went to two of the first three Big Ten title games; and, are poised for another Big Ten title and potential national championship playoff berth in its inaugural year. Top 10 rankings are now commonplace in EL. So, success isn't the issue.
One way to fix this would be to stop this "Prime Time" nonsense; the result is devaluing lovely fall Saturday football afternoons. We'd save electricity, too. Or, another way would be to learn about new ways to add value to college football to keep Millennials coming to games.
Transform or go out of business. That is up to the colleges, not the fans nor the attendees. As for Michigan State, they've succeeded in the recent past with marketing challenges... and likely will meet this challenge as well.