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Ohio State football bucks dwindling football attendance trend

Andrew Holleran / Photo editor

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Alex Newman grew up in southern Ohio and had parents who never wavered in their support of Ohio State football. He learned early to support the men wearing scarlet and gray.
“It’s a tradition,” said Newman, a fourth-year in animal sciences. “People in Ohio grow up cheering for the Buckeyes. We all love the football team, and some of us even come to school here because of it.”
That tradition, many say, is what keeps OSU football strong in a year when interest in college football seems to be waning.
According to a study from AL.com, attendance for college football games featuring teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision conferences hit a nine-year low in 2012. Average attendance per game fell by more than 1,000 people from 2007. Television ratings for college football games fell by nearly 4 percent on ESPN and by more than 10 percent on CBS, according to the report.
But OSU saw more fans at its home field in the 2012 season than it did in 2011. The number of fans in attendance at Ohio Stadium on Saturdays hasn’t fallen below 104,000 in the last 10 years. Even during the 2011 season, when the Buckeyes lost their starting quarterback before the season and finished with a losing 6-7 record, average attendance at home games only decreased by about 50 people per game from 2010, according to the OSU athletic department.
Television ratings were less stable. The two OSU football games broadcast on ESPN in 2012 averaged almost 2.5 million viewers, while the three games the sports network broadcast in 2011 averaged just more than 2 million viewers, said Mike Humes, an ESPN spokesman.
Ratings for OSU games broadcast on ABC, however, experienced a decrease. The network featured four games in 2012 that averaged about 4.2 million viewers, but the two games ABC broadcast in 2011 averaged about 5.7 million, Humes said.
He said many factors can influence a game’s TV rating, such as “the competition, the opposing teams, weather, time slots and how the team is playing on the field.”
OSU was 12-0 in 2012 but was ineligible for the postseason. Both factors might have influenced the team’s television viewership, he said.
“We are fortunate to have extraordinary fan support,” said Dan Wallenberg, an OSU athletic department spokesman.
He also attributed the program’s success in rating and high attendance to its tradition and history.
Rabid fan support could also explain OSU bucking national attendance trends.
“We’re the biggest and the best,” said Sean LeFever, a third-year in material science and engineering, who said he’s attended every home football game since he was a freshmen.
The OSU Board of Trustees recently approved a price increase for the 2013 football season.
The public football ticket price will be $79 starting next season, a $9 increase, while student ticket prices will increase by $2 to $34.
Athletic director Gene Smith also said last week during a Board meeting that the Sept. 28 game against Wisconsin will be a Premier Game, priced at $110 for the public.
LeFever said the price increase would most likely not keep fans from going to games.
“There’s a group of five to seven of us that go to every game,” he said. “We’re pretty loyal. (More expensive tickets) will hurt my bank account, but I’m still going to pay for them.”
Newman said he isn’t thrilled with the ticket increase either.
“It will probably affect ticket sales,” he said. “But we’ll have to see.”

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