Gridiron Countdown: a quick update on attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium

Also in the “Gridiron Countdown” series:

Preseason ratings, featuring The Citadel (and the rest of the SoCon)

What teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before facing The Citadel?

The Citadel competes to win games — and fans

The Citadel’s run/pass tendencies, per-play averages, 4th-down decision-making, and more

Recent links of interest:

This post is really just a quick update on attendance. Last year, I created a spreadsheet that included attendance figures at Johnson Hagood Stadium since the 1964 season (attendance totals prior to that season are difficult to find and/or occasionally suspect).

I’ve updated the spreadsheet to include the 2014 attendance totals at JHS. You can access the spreadsheet at this link:

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2014

The spreadsheet lists year-by-year total and average game attendance, and the win/loss record for the team in each given season. There is also a category ranking the years by average attendance.

Other columns refer to the program’s winning percentage over a two-year, three-year, five-year, and ten-year period, with the “current” season being the final year in each category. For example, the three-year winning percentage for 1992 is made up of the 1990, 1991, and 1992 seasons.

I listed those categories primarily to see what impact constant winning (or losing) has on long-term attendance trends. My findings were not clear-cut, to be honest.

As I noted last year, the numbers seemed to suggest that a good season tends to drive walk-up sales more than might be expected, particularly compared to season ticket sales for the following campaign. It is also true that due to The Citadel’s struggles on the gridiron over the last two decades, it is hard to draw hard-and-fast conclusions about what the school’s attendance goals should actually be in this day and age.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

Since 1964, The Citadel’s record at Johnson Hagood Stadium is 176-109, for a winning percentage of 61.75%. The program’s record at home since 1993, the season after the Bulldogs won the SoCon title, is 67-55 (54.91%).

Of course, that only tells part of the story. The Citadel’s overall record from 1964 through the 1992 season was 159-155-3. That’s a 29-year period of basically being a .500 program.

In the 22 years since, the Bulldogs have an overall record of 95-150 (winning percentage: 39.58%). The road record during that stretch is a horrific 28-95.

If the football program had continued to break even in wins and losses over the past two decades, would attendance in those years have been significantly better? I think it obviously would have, though I also believe there still would have been a dropoff, due to a lot of factors beyond The Citadel’s control (the exponential increase in televised college football games being the #1 issue).

Since 1964, over 4,000,000 fans have watched football games at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The average attendance over that period is 14,233 per game.

The last time The Citadel averaged that many fans per game over the course of a season, however, was 2006. Last year’s average (9,505) was the lowest in 51 years.

That has to improve dramatically, and in a hurry. However, it’s worth putting The Citadel’s attendance in perspective.

If you follow college athletics, you are probably aware that the Sun Belt is considering expanding. Two of the candidates to get a berth in that league are Eastern Kentucky and Coastal Carolina.

These are two schools that want to move up to the FBS ranks. They are ambitious. They want to be “big time”. And yet…

The Citadel, in its worst season for home attendance since at least 1963, still had higher average attendance than both EKU and Coastal Carolina last year.

Think about that.

The Citadel isn’t interested in a Sun Belt invite, though. If the Pac-12 were to call, maybe the military college would consider the offer. Maybe.

Less than two weeks to go…

Conference Realignment — Back to the Future?

Admittedly, there have already been a few billion words wasted on the subject of conference realignment, but I’ll throw in a few comments about the subject as well…

There is some discussion about a merger of sorts between Conference USA and the Mountain West.  This would create a confederation of (at least) 22 teams, which sounds ridiculous.  It would not be unprecedented, however.

The Southern Conference formed in 1921, with 14 original members.  Those schools: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Washington & Lee.  Six schools joined shortly thereafter:  LSU, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tulane, and Vanderbilt.  By 1931, Duke, Sewanee, and VMI had become members.

That’s right.  One major conference, 23 member schools.  It was an unwieldy amalgamation, and destined for a breakup.  It wouldn’t be the last time a league split into pieces because it got too big.

Tangent:  It really wasn’t the first time, either.  The SoCon itself was a product of a split, as those 14 original schools were breaking away from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, which by 1921 had 30 members.

In December of 1932, 13 of the SoCon schools left to form the Southeastern Conference:  Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Sewanee, and Tulane.  The final three schools listed would eventually leave the SEC, with Sewanee departing in 1940 after eight years in the league; the Tigers had played 37 conference football games and lost all 37 of them.

Now the SEC has 12 schools (with Arkansas and South Carolina added in the early 1990s) and is poised to add a 13th, Texas A&M.  Conference commissioner Mike Slive has stated that the league can stay at 13 members for the time being, and why not — it was a 13-school league for the first eight years of its history.

There has been a lot of talk about BCS “superconferences” with 16 schools.  It wasn’t that long ago that there was a Division I league with 16 members — the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), which expanded from 10 to 16 schools in 1996.  This proved to be a mistake, as several of the “old guard” WAC schools did not like the new setup.  After three years, the 16-school league was a memory, as eight members left to form the Mountain West.

Eleven of the schools that were in the sixteen-member WAC are now in either the Mountain West or C-USA.  I wonder what they think about possibly becoming part of a 22-school association…

Another one of the “WAC 16”, TCU, was set to become the Big East’s 17th member next year (10 for football, all for hoops).  Now that league will be losing at least two of its schools, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

There are a lot of reasons why the Big East is in trouble, but trying to satisfy the agendas of so many different institutions is surely one of them.  That’s one reason I was surprised when Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com reported that the Big East had considered adding Navy and possibly Air Force to its roster (as football-only members) prior to the sudden departures of Pitt and Syracuse.

Random thoughts:

— If a school isn’t sure which conference it should join, maybe it can join two at once, like Iowa, which was a member of both the Big 10 and the Big 8 from 1907 to 1911.

— If your conference ceases to exist, like the Southwest Conference, that might be sad.  It could be worse, though.  Phillips University, which was a member of the SWC for one year (1920), closed up shop in 1998, two years after the league in which it was once briefly a member met its demise.

— It’s sometimes instructive (and occasionally amusing) to look back at what schools were once members of various leagues.  I’ve already mentioned original SEC member Sewanee.  The Big 10 once included the University of Chicago (and that school is still a member of the conference’s academic consortium, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation).

Southwestern University was a charter member of the SWC.  Washington University (MO) was an original member of the Big 8, which also featured for a time Drake and Grinnell College.  The league now known as the Pac-12 once had both Idaho and Montana as members.

— Then there are schools like West Virginia, a BCS school (for the moment, anyway) that until 1968 was a member of the Southern Conference.  Virginia Tech was a SoCon stalwart for four decades, leaving in 1965.

Rutgers has gone from being one of the “middle three” with Lafayette and Lehigh, and a historic rivalry with Princeton, to big-time athletics in the Big East; now it is searching for a way to ensure it continues to hold its place in that sphere as its conference appears on the verge of collapse.  Another Big East school, South Florida, did not hold its first classes until 1960 and did not field a football team until 1997 (history records that the Bulls’ first loss on the gridiron came at the hands of The Citadel, at Johnson Hagood Stadium).

The University of Arizona started playing football in 1899, before Arizona was even a state.  Arizona (the school) and Arizona State were members of the Border Conference, which included Hardin-Simmons and West Texas A&M, and then left that league to join the WAC (long before the 16-member WAC) before becoming members of the renamed Pac-10.

The history of conference realignment is that leagues have been transient by nature, as the fortunes on and off the field of the various schools have ebbed and flowed.  In 1899 no one would have dreamed that the state of Arizona would have a population boom thanks (in part) to air conditioning, so that by the end of the century that state’s universities would be much larger than anyone would have anticipated one hundred years before.  There are a lot of stories like the Arizona schools and South Florida, and a few on the other side as well (like poor Phillips).

In other words, trying to anticipate how things will shake out can be dicey at best. Even as I type this, my twitter feed has exploded with the news that the Pac-12 (which was once the Pac-10, and before that the Pac-8, and before that the AAWU, and before that the PCC) has decided not to expand, for now.

We’ll see how long that lasts.