Vols saw fewer fans: home football attendance at its lowest since 1995

The University of Tennessee failed to reach the six-digit mark in annual home-game football attendance last season for the first time since 1995, UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said Wednesday.

"I think our average attendance is going to be slightly under 100,000 for the first time in a while," said Hamilton in an interview with the News Sentinel.

The Vols have averaged more than 100,000 per game since 1996, when stadium expansion grew the maximum attendance from 91,902 to 102,544. Attendance is based on tickets sold and support staff in the stadium for the game. The actual attendance figure for 2009 is not yet available.

"As I look around the league at different schools and as I watch games throughout the country this year, you have some of that nationally," said Hamilton, citing the economic downturn. "So it wasn't to be totally unexpected. Certainly we want to have our numbers back above the 100,000 mark."

Donations to UT's Athletic Department are still strong despite the sagging turnstile numbers at Neyland Stadium, he said, adding that UT's Athletic Department received four pledges of more than $1 million and two pledges of more than $100,000 in the past week.

A recent study of Neyland Stadium patrons showed 65 percent of the people in the south end zone come to only one game per season, he said.

"If you're making a choice to come to one game a year, that's probably a really tough financial decision in your home, and I think it's reflective of the environment we're in right now," Hamilton said.

High-level donors possibly don't face as difficult a decision.

"There are still a pocketful of folks who are having success even in this economy, so some of those gifts are coming from those who are having those kinds of successes," Hamilton said.

He said many of the empty seats in Neyland Stadium are a result of traveling fans of opposing schools not making the trip to Knoxville as they once did. UT has little time to resell returned tickets, usually just a few days.

"Turning those individual game tickets becomes a bit more problematic right now," Hamilton said.

The athletic director said he believes that student attendance is still strong despite empty seats for some games. He said students have had to adapt to three methods of ticket pickup in three years.

He's pleased with the current method of student ticket distribution, which allows the Athletic Department to sell tickets that aren't picked up by students. However, even that has been a challenge during a recession.

"As the economy has suffered a little bit, it's been hard to turn those volume of tickets in what typically turns out to be a 48-hour period before kickoff," Hamilton said.

Neyland Stadium is in the midst of a major renovation, in part to combat the growing number of fans who stay home to watch sporting events on high-definition television with surround sound speakers.

Long term, Hamilton said UT is considering a second jumbo screen and more concourses to enhance the fans' game experience.

There's also the old-fashioned draw for a program that has had two losing seasons since 2005.

"We're going to try winning again, how about that?" Hamilton said. "I think as we win more games and continue to put a more competitive product back on the field, (ticket sales) will take care of some of itself because of the strong fan base we have."

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Comments » 127

ONUV writes:

better bring back fulmer, right ron tosh?

bradr114 writes:

ask santa for football game tix's, and help us pack the stadium next year so we can show our players & recruits how much we love the vols

Laydbakvol writes:

It's hard to break 100K when your capacity has been whittled down to 100,011. May not be the whole reason but you'd think that taking out over 2,000 seats last year would at least get a mention.

Velo_Vol writes:

I read or heard that the primary reason Jerry Jones wanted that huge screen in his idiot stadium was to make the viewing experience at the game competitive with the home HTDV experience.

I wonder if they show 100 commercials there during the game?

bobbytodd writes:

Every game is on tv and the economy is terrible.

Barrack Obama said "Yes we can!" Well I wish he would.

nocleats writes:

Speaking for myself, it was a financial decision to not go to as many games this year.. I just did not have the money to spend this season.. but,, I am saving up now for next year..GBO!!!

CB4VOLZ writes:

Another positive article from KNS... they just keep on coming....

Cldvols1 writes:

IMO the last paragraph says it all, once the Vols get back on the winning track ticket sales will take care of themselves! GBO

JCJ1986 writes:

This is a tough one to figure out; stadium capacity has decreased, ticket prices have increased, and the program has been the epitome of mediocrity for the last 11 years. Make no mistake I'm Big Orange, but we're not going to finish better than 8-4 for years to come.

BigOrangeCountry writes:

Ticket prices are double what they were a few years ago and still rising. No wonder they can't sell it out.

Govolsps writes:

I only go to about one game every year. And the one this year was the loudest I remember going to. There are fewer fans because of the economy and being able to watch on tv in such high quality....but there's also a lot more excitment amongst the fans who are there...hence the noise level.

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

in response to Laydbakvol:

It's hard to break 100K when your capacity has been whittled down to 100,011. May not be the whole reason but you'd think that taking out over 2,000 seats last year would at least get a mention.

You got that right! I appreciate you pointing out that fact for all the people. Well said!!! Vols TCB...Keep on keeping on....GBO!!!

cdldoc#211897 writes:

That dadgum Fulmer must have caused this too.

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to bobbytodd:

Every game is on tv and the economy is terrible.

Barrack Obama said "Yes we can!" Well I wish he would.

aman

Yes! he can....hit the road

87UTVOL writes:

Don't generalize neighborhoods Hammy. I'm in the South end
and I never miss. And, I'm a Mountaineer giver.

teampenny#658108 writes:

So we are winning more games with LK than with PF, but less people want to see us play. How many championships in men's sports have we won since he has been here-not many! More so we are bringing in less money than others in our conference. Let's put out the money an hire Foley from Florida-that has worked before.

fulmersbelly writes:

"He's pleased with the current method of student ticket distribution, which allows the Athletic Department to sell tickets that aren't picked up by students. However, even that has been a challenge during a recession."

Pleased with the new distribution for students. Which involves the distribution of students' money into the coffers of the Athletic Department. Of course he loves it. It makes money. And if it doesn't make money, he can try to sell it to someone else to... wait for it.. make money.

It reminds me a lot of how Vegas has changed over the years. It used to be about good value, and a good playing experience, with give and take on both sides, but now, it's all about the bottom line. Squeeze every last penny until your golden goose dies. Thanks Hammy!

coalvol writes:

in response to Orangeblood13:

aman

Yes! he can....hit the road

Leave the politics off this board please. Back to the topic at hand this year was the first time I'd been to a home game since 1998. Tickets have just gotten too expensive for a working stiff like me. In 1991 I went to EVERY home game. Of course back then they were under $20. This year I paid $60 to see us get beat by Auburn. I think for many of us it's hard to justify paying that kind of money for a ticket when you can sit at home and watch it on TV. That said I still had a great time and the new jumbotron was terrific. There is still nothing like going to a home game at Neyland though.

volhome writes:

There are two areas that typically have empty seats in the stadium. The opponents returned tickets in the South End upper deck and the Student section. I laugh at that, since when the East Side Club Seats opened we we booted from our former long time (10 year) location in the South End Zone for the displaced students. It was about that time period that we started seeing empty seats at the stadium.

A suggestion would be to boot the students from the prime East Side seats and let South End Zoners have those seats for the same cost they used to pay. That won't happen because for some reason we feel compelled to show the 'zealous' (empty) Student section on TV.

A second suggestion would be to slash prices for remaining tickets on Thursday before the games. If people could go to a ticket office an get tickets for $10 a pop, the problem would take care of itself.

Bottom line, if Mike would stop using the contrained thinking of the past, the stadium could be full again. And, yes, I am STILL bitter about being displaced by them dadgum students four years ago.

jmanvolfan writes:

I made every game this year but with all these late games it is hard. Not to mention the weather was not the best this year. Seems like it rained for half the games

NashTN writes:

Mike alwaws forgets to remember two things about this year.

1. This was what I always call the DOG Schedule. The year Georgia comes to town and ALA and FLA plays at home. Normally it is not as good of a schedule as the even year schedule.

2. Building the Fat Cat Dens we lost about 3,000 seats in Neyland.

Loosing those seats will make it almost impossible to average 1000,000 like we have in the past.

JCJ1986 writes:

in response to volhome:

There are two areas that typically have empty seats in the stadium. The opponents returned tickets in the South End upper deck and the Student section. I laugh at that, since when the East Side Club Seats opened we we booted from our former long time (10 year) location in the South End Zone for the displaced students. It was about that time period that we started seeing empty seats at the stadium.

A suggestion would be to boot the students from the prime East Side seats and let South End Zoners have those seats for the same cost they used to pay. That won't happen because for some reason we feel compelled to show the 'zealous' (empty) Student section on TV.

A second suggestion would be to slash prices for remaining tickets on Thursday before the games. If people could go to a ticket office an get tickets for $10 a pop, the problem would take care of itself.

Bottom line, if Mike would stop using the contrained thinking of the past, the stadium could be full again. And, yes, I am STILL bitter about being displaced by them dadgum students four years ago.

Hahaha, can you believe this guy? Hey buddy, it's called the UNIVERSITY of Tennessee. University=students.

hillsborovol writes:

In summary

10) bad economy
9) increased ticket prices
8) forcing sideline ticket holders to pay excessive contribution to keep tickets
7) decreased stadium capacity
6) charging for student tickets
5) year followed 2 losing seasons in last 4 years
4) most games are on TV
3) too many night games for people living further away from Knoxville
2) UT keeps reducing the # of free parking places around campus
and,
1) uninspiring sports writers have resulted in lower fan interest...bring back Tom Siler and Ben Byrd!

Ringside writes:

KNS....bring out the charts and demonstrate when this trend began. Also, if you could put a few of the orange pride in the upper deck, hmmm...just saying.

TennesseeTuxedo writes:

Has the KNS had layoffs? People in this country are tightening their belts. Until we have the foresight to understand that who we vote for in elections matters, job losses, and reduced family income will hammer away at attendance figures.

VOLsince68 writes:

This has everything to do with the economy being in the dumps and increasing costs to attend games and NOTHING to do with the fan base not wanting to come see the Vols in action.

Winning will cure a lot. Even in a tough economy, people will be more apt to cough up the money and go to a game when we’re winning!!

Unfortunately guys, TV schedules dictate when the games are played these days. It’s ALL about the TV money.......

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

I'm really not worried about the lower attendance. W_D pointed out we still led the conference in attendance. I don't think the attendance numbers say as much about the program as it does about the economy, etc. I'd like to see what the conference-wide and nation-wide trends were.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

Another good question is merchandise sales. What were those like?

ZULU3 writes:

in response to hillsborovol:

In summary

10) bad economy
9) increased ticket prices
8) forcing sideline ticket holders to pay excessive contribution to keep tickets
7) decreased stadium capacity
6) charging for student tickets
5) year followed 2 losing seasons in last 4 years
4) most games are on TV
3) too many night games for people living further away from Knoxville
2) UT keeps reducing the # of free parking places around campus
and,
1) uninspiring sports writers have resulted in lower fan interest...bring back Tom Siler and Ben Byrd!

GOOD 1 TO 10 LIST. i think late night games hurt alot plus they were on tv..with this economy even vegas hotels are closing due to high room vacancies. one would think that kns would replace the old worn out sports writers with a bunch of sports writers that werent always ut negative.

HighlandVol writes:

Sensationalist headline. LaydbackVol made the best point in that this was the first year with the new luxury boxes which cut overall capacity. I would prefer to see a percentage comparison of attendance and also an adjusted (for inflation) revenue comparison. Of course, that might just punch a huge hole in the argument so I won't hold my breath.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

Since there were seats taken away, it seems it would have been better to report the figures as a percentage of capacity, and compare THAT with past seasons.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to HighlandVol:

Sensationalist headline. LaydbackVol made the best point in that this was the first year with the new luxury boxes which cut overall capacity. I would prefer to see a percentage comparison of attendance and also an adjusted (for inflation) revenue comparison. Of course, that might just punch a huge hole in the argument so I won't hold my breath.

Highland, just stop it! You're making way too much sense.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

I guess my question is if this is so easy for average-joe football fans to figure out, why can't the writers who get paid so much do the same?

Kasey writes:

Maybe if the average fan could afford tickets attendance wouldn't be down so much. UT has priced themselves out of reasonableness for the average family to get decent seats.

lahvolman2 writes:

in response to CB4VOLZ:

Another positive article from KNS... they just keep on coming....

NOW THAT'S FUNNY.... I DON'T CARE WHAT ANYBODY SAYS.....

gslaton#227127 writes:

Given the fact that many many businesses are down in volume from 25-50% over the last couple of years, being down 1-2% in attendance is still probably a home run. I'm surprised it isn't more.

rocky_topper writes:

in response to The_Four_Horsemen:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

HA! poor little squall-bag!

lomas98 writes:

I saw a lot of empty seats on TV in the upper deck corners this past season at stadiums in Auburn, GA, and LSU as well. Everybody is feeling the same thing as far as the economy. Visiting teams are not making the road trips either and that effects the total crowd. Multiple NFL games are getting blacked out in markets due to poor ticket sales for the first time ever. This is not a surprise. As long as no probation comes, the seats will be filled for home games against Oregon, FL, and Bama next season. Year after that not only GA and SC are at home, but LSU enters the home schedule.

lahvolman2 writes:

TICKETS ..TICKETS.. TICKETS... Sure, they've gone up... but that's not all.... we're season ticket holders since 1968 and tickets aren't the only thing to go up... checked parking prices lately???? prices up the strip????? food and drinks???? We travel from Ga. and Chattanooga respectively and an average day drip is 12 hours.. this is really no fun when kickoff is close to 8:pm and you get back home at 1:30am.. so there are a lot more to this situation than just the ticket prices... sure makes that 42" flat screen plazma 10' in front of you tempting..... just saying that after traveling to hundreds of games since 1959... todays technology sure makes it easy to stay home....

riversetvol writes:

Hamilton needs to decide who he going to take care of,the fans who have supported and built the program over the years, or that little chicken salad network ESPNU. I don't mind a night game on real ESPN because of the exposure we receive but I doubt more than 100 people not UK or UT fans watched our last game in Lexington on the "U."

The "real," attendance is a lot lower than the announced attendance. I doubt if there were more than 75,000 people actually in the stands for some games.

As someone mentioned the greed of the SEC and the UTAD is going to kill the Golden Goose.

NashTN writes:

in response to CCVol

You left out the DOG Schedule (odd years)Georgia comes to town and Ala. and Fla. is at home.

V_O_L_S_GO_VOLS_GO writes:

in response to lomas98:

I saw a lot of empty seats on TV in the upper deck corners this past season at stadiums in Auburn, GA, and LSU as well. Everybody is feeling the same thing as far as the economy. Visiting teams are not making the road trips either and that effects the total crowd. Multiple NFL games are getting blacked out in markets due to poor ticket sales for the first time ever. This is not a surprise. As long as no probation comes, the seats will be filled for home games against Oregon, FL, and Bama next season. Year after that not only GA and SC are at home, but LSU enters the home schedule.

I sit up in the upper south end zone where you're talking about. Those seats are all reserved for the visitors. So, if the visitors don't buy the tickets, it hurts our attendance.

FatherVol writes:

I gave up my season tickets because I couldn't justify the purchase price when I didn't even know if I could get to the games since all times are TBA. Night games are horrendous when one has to be back in Memphis at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, it's television that sets game times and the university has sold its soul to the devil on this one.

micbrooks#212023 writes:

in response to teampenny#658108:

So we are winning more games with LK than with PF, but less people want to see us play. How many championships in men's sports have we won since he has been here-not many! More so we are bringing in less money than others in our conference. Let's put out the money an hire Foley from Florida-that has worked before.

Look, this isn't rocket science...In the end, going to football games is intertainment and is totally "discretionary spending". Well, DUH!!! there is a recesssion going on. I don't think they have had any trouble selling the sky boxes or "club level" seats, and these were put in at the expense of the regular seats, reducing the overall # of seats. And yes, High Def big screen TV is a better way to actually watch the game, with multiple views, instant replay, etc. If they want 100% attendance, this will only come with >10 win seasons.

10Vol85 writes:

Take family to a game or two? - High ticket prices x 4 or 5 just to see games like WKU, etc. Watch game live or pay enough money to buy a TV? Easy decision but result is that kids don't get brought into the tradition. Fewer, in-turn, will be buying tickets when they grow up. I guess the market is what it is but the administration has not adjusted ticket prices to fill the stadium if that's the desired goal.

Classof72 writes:

They might consider notifying the public which games on the schedule they're not going to wear Orange shirts. If they're going to dress like Vandy, they can get used to Vandy-size crowds. Of course, only 15% of the crowd didn't like it when they pulled that Halloween trick on the fans without notice. (Hamilton deliberately mislead the fans.) That 15% would pull a 100 thousand crowd down to 85 thousand. It took a long time to create the "Sea of Orange". It took Hamilton and CLK a week to get rid of it. I support CLK. Hamilton should have helped him out and stopped the black shirts. Does the term "brand identity" mean anything to Hamilton? Remember "Big Orange Country"?

volsfaninva writes:

Another factor that has not been considered is that there were 8 home games this year. So fans that come infreqeuntly had more games to select from this year.

So instead of focusing on average attendance, what was the total attendance for the season? I would venture to guess that total attendance was probably a record as I don't recall the last time UT had 8 home games (if ever).

dwolfcreek#397971 writes:

in response to cdldoc#211897:

That dadgum Fulmer must have caused this too.

5 and 7 you are right , he had alot to do with it .

gotvols writes:

All of this garbage will run full circle.... After the networks realize that they control it, they will start putting all the games on pay-per-view resulting in less tv viewers and once the tv gameday is all pay-per-view people will start going to the games again.... That will all take play by the year 2020. oh.... never mind....

Volunatic writes:

in response to jmanvolfan:

I made every game this year but with all these late games it is hard. Not to mention the weather was not the best this year. Seems like it rained for half the games

I agree about the late games. I understand when it is a nationally televised late game, but the Ohio game was a 7pm PPV game. PPV and non-televised games should be played in the early afternoon.

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