The logistics involved in getting a 2020 college football season off the ground, much less completed, are daunting. One of the most dramatic and noticeable changes this year as opposed to any other may not be what is happening on the field, however.
As the NBA, NHL and MLB return to action without fans, schools across the country are forced to deal with a tough reality. While some schools have announced plans that allow fans to attend college football games in a limited capacity, that doesn’t mean fans are eager to pack the stands.
In the most recent SB Nation Reacts survey, fans were asked if they would be open to attending a college football game in person this season. Just over 50 percent of fans said they would.
All four of the major American sports leagues have struggled with the bottom-line hit caused by losing ticket sales. But none of them pack in crowds like the biggest college football stadiums around the country, which pack in sometimes upwards of 100,000 fans each game.
Certainly there’s some nuance that’s not captured in this poll question. Some fans are probably assuming they’d be wearing masks, and that hygiene protocols would be in place to reduce transmission. Some are likely envisioning 96,000 screaming strangers and recoiling reflexively. Others probably see themselves 8 feet away from the closest stranger and maybe even recently vaccinated and can’t wait.
What the poll does capture is the trepidation to head out into the kind of crowd college football needs to draw consistently to keep the gravy train rolling. In economic terms, schools have enlarged stadiums and added seventh home games to juice the supply side of college football’s business equation. In 2020 they’ll have to navigate a demand side shock, though the extent of the slump remains unknown.
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