College football has seen a rapid rise in television contract money and TV figures soaring over the recent years. But it seems for all the fans at home watching games, the number of bums in seats at stadiums has dropped significantly.
The Universities have seen this problem and have tried to solve it in a way that no college football supporter would dream of, by going to the MLS for help.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the Florida Gators are one of many schools that spent time at Sporting Kansas City to learn from the ownership’s spin-off company, Sporting Innovations.
That may seem laughable on the face of it, but there's one thing that may have passed you by, MLS fans are the most dedicated and passionate supporters in the country.
The Gators recognized a major problem when it began losing games last season and losing its most important fan section, the students.
From the WSJ report:
"But the Gators failed to qualify for a bowl last season, and the rate of students showing up to games fell to 66%. For the stunning Nov. 23 home loss to Georgia Southern, the student section was only 45% full and more Florida students bought tickets and stayed home than bought tickets and actually used them."
That’s where MLS can help college football, the live match experience is so great that fans prefer to be a part of the buzz than stay at home, the exact opposite of what is happening in college football these days.
Major League Soccer faced major problems in its early days and Kansas City was a great example of that. They were a team that regularly failed to attract barely 10,000 fans as late as 2009. Yet this season they are averaging over 19,000 fans - basically selling out every single game - and have created a youthful culture around the fan base.
That, more than anything else is what is attracting college football teams to study what is going on in MLS and at Sporting Kansas City specifically.
It may seem absurd that the juggernaut of college football is taking lessons from the little MLS, but when it comes to attendance and fan engagement it makes perfect sense. The only question is if college football can find a way to the knowledge it learned and integrate it on Saturdays.