What a YouTube comment reinforced about college football fans

What a YouTube comment reinforced about college football fans

A YouTube viewer's comment led to some thought, some research and some reassurance about fans’ love for college football Saturdays.

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

| Feb 24, 2024, 6:00am CST

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

Feb 24, 2024, 6:00am CST

It’s a new world for old sportswriters. 

Readers used to reach us via the “comments” section of our websites. Then social media took over and it was tweets and posts. Now writers are also podcasters whose shows appear on YouTube. Viewers who might also be readers comment there.

I’m grateful that Sellout Crowd allows me a weekly podcast called Mind Games, and that it pops up on my YouTube channel. The idea behind the show, if you couldn’t guess by the title, is for us to think about the topics presented. 

When viewers respond and get me thinking about their insight or counterpoints, it’s a step toward saving something endangered by angry irrationality these days – civil discourse. 

Here’s an example…

Ralph Russo, the national college football writer for the Associated Press, joined me on the last Mind Games episode. We got into some heavy topics pervading over the sport, some affecting Brent Venables and Mike Gundy closer to home, before deciding everything was going to be OK because we still had the sanctity of fall Saturdays. 

Game day will always be the thing, the premise went, no matter how often we are sidetracked by issues related to NIL, ESPN or the CFP.

A viewer responded: “Ralph Russo is right. The games on Saturday are what it’s about. But the games are not nearly as enjoyable as they were a few decades back.”

He liked it better when there was less Jumbotron volume between plays, lower concession stand prices and a less-intrusive entry process at the stadium gates. 

“So, for me, the games have already been spoiled,” he continued. “The games do not exist for the fans; nowadays, the fans exist to fund the games and cheer on cue. This Brave New World of College Football leaves me very apathetic.”

Here’s a fan disgruntled not by name, image and likeness and the transfer portal but by Jock Jams and $10 Cokes. Plenty of others are turned off by NIL, the portal and conference realignment. Or at least they claim to be while trying to outscream each other on Twitter and Facebook. 

That bothered me. It made me wonder if I was being naive about fall Saturdays as our elixir. 

I popped around Google seeking reassurance.

There’s a website that tracks year-over-year FBS attendance, d1ticker.com. According to its figures, 95 out of 133 football programs listed saw their average attendance increase from 2022 to ‘23. Thirty-six programs saw their attendance decrease. Two, Georgia and Iowa, had no change. 

Twenty-nine programs showed a double-digit percentage gain from ‘22 to ‘23. Seventeen showed a double-digit percentage drop. 

That feels encouraging, especially considering that in March of 2023, CBSSports.com reported that college football attendance in 2022 rose for the first time since 2014 with the largest year-to-year increase since 1982. 

So fans seem to be coming. 

Fans seem to be watching. 

Sports Media Watch is a bookmark-worthy site for those curious about who is watching what FBS teams on Nielsen-rated platforms. 

SMW reported 2022-to-’23 viewership increases for CBS’ SEC package, Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff games and the SEC and ACC Championships, plus a record audience for the Pac-12 Championship. 

Michigan’s 30-24 victory over Ohio State Nov. 25 drew a record audience for Fox and the highest viewership for any college football regular-season game since 2011. 

ESPN’s report included its second-best college football viewership since 2016, with a 5% year-to-year increase in bowl viewership and the best College Football Playoff/New Year’s Six viewership since 2018. Even ESPN+ did well, with ‘22 to ‘23 increases in number of viewers (3%) and time spent on the platforms (8%). 

A combination of the transfer portal and NIL scrambled rosters. Conference realignment scrambled schedules. Fans were bothered by a less-recognizable regular season and then an unrecognizable bowl season. They tuned in just the same. 

Inconveniences continued to cloud stadiums, related to parking outside, food and drink inside or anything else threatening fans’ savings accounts or patience. Fans showed up just the same.

I don’t share any of this data to shame one Mind Games viewer who raised some fuss. He had every right to do so, same as any of you are right to your feelings about the direction college football is headed. 

It’s OK to be uncomfortable about all of this change, or disdainful if you choose to go there. I just hope we all meet back on fall Saturdays. 

That’s what I told my Mind Games viewer in response to what he told me. I’m glad he reached out, and that we were able to hear from each other. 

I don’t know if he benefited, but I did. Without his taking the time to reach out so thoughtfully, I wouldn’t have taken the time to be even more secure about one thing related to college football.

Game day.

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Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com. Reach out with feedback and/or ideas at [email protected] or (918) 629-6229. Follow him on Twitter at @GuerinEmig and Instagram at @guerin.emig. .

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