first_imgAll it took was a new head coach, offensive scheme and director of athletics for Bethann Fischer to come out of a 13-year dormancy.“This year, we got Dino (Babers), a new team, new hope,” said Fischer, who bought Syracuse football season tickets this year for the first time since 2003. “I’m hoping there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.”But for years, college football attendance has decreased. Syracuse, and the nation, ride a steady decline in home football attendance. This year’s Carrier Dome average is on pace for a record low while national Division I FBS attendance has fallen in six of the last seven years after peaking in 2008. Syracuse’s season and group ticket figures are up, said Anthony Di Fino, Syracuse’s associate athletics director for business development.Among the measures athletic departments take to lure fans to games are new personnel, upgraded facilities and branding campaigns, such as Syracuse’s social media push, #OrangeIsTheNewFast. Colleges across the country face the challenge as fans seek enhanced at-home viewing experiences, winning teams they can root for and alternate entertainment options.“Here we go again, it’s 2-2, why should I buy tickets?” said Rodney Paul, a professor of sport management in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. “So much has to do with other entertainment options. What else could you do?”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIt doesn’t help that the Orange is 6-12 since the start of 2015. Getting families to spend a day at the game over Destiny USA or the park is no easy feat. Facing record-low attendance, SU Athletics has launched several initiatives to lure fans through the Carrier Dome turnstiles.Kiran Ramsey | Digital Design EditorTo bolster student attendance for a nationally televised game and expose first-year students to Orange athletics, Syracuse granted all students with a valid ID free admission to the Colgate and Louisville contests. The move comes months before SU Athletics may test a new student season ticket model.By the start of next football season, SU could adopt a point system, which incentivizes students to attend athletic events through prizes. Syracuse plans on a point system because of its success at other Power 5 universities including Miami, Florida State and Boston College, Di Fino said. A “few thousand” students who had not purchased season tickets attended the UofL game because it was free.Each Syracuse home game has a theme, including Medical Appreciation Night, Homecoming and Military Appreciation Day. SU has amped up promotions during timeouts and at halftime. There are more flashes of the crowd on the video board.This summer, Syracuse upgraded Carrier Dome Wi-Fi speeds and ran its “No Huddle Tour” in Rochester, Buffalo and Binghamton, New York, for the first time since 2010, emphasizing “New York’s College Team.” Fans can meet players and coaches at the events.Over the years, SU has upgraded Carrier Dome video boards and scoreboards. An air conditioning system could be in the works, Di Fino said, declining further comment. Against Louisville, Carrier Dome temperatures eclipsed 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The taste of hot dogs, comfort of the bleachers and temperatures of the venue weigh just as heavily as the on-field product, experts say.Syracuse attendance peaked in the program’s centennial season, 1989, when it averaged 48,885 per game. Home attendance has decreased 30 percent since 2012, when the figure (45,854) eclipsed 45,000 for the first time in 13 years. In both years, the Orange won eight games and a Bowl.“Winning cures almost any problems,” Paul said.Kiran Ramsey | Digital Design EditorEven last year, when the Orange sprung to its first 3-0 start in more than 20 years — SU finished 4-8 — attendance dropped 21 percent, the largest decline among Power 5 schools over the year.At all levels, football leagues face growing scrutiny over the game’s harmful effects. Youth participation rates have declined and NFL television viewership has dropped more than 10 percent this year.Still, elite programs have drawn big crowds — even in down seasons. Teams with rich histories, like Syracuse, can leverage tradition through nostalgia, said Gregg Bocketti, an associate professor at Transylvania University who has studied attendance. More tangible upgrades help, too.Louisiana State recently installed a sound system to keep fans. Kentucky attendance jumped 6 percent its first year in a renovated stadium. Houston saw a 20 percent increase as it became a ranked team.A mix of on-field success and off-field entertainment helped Akron’s attendance soar. Despite sitting about 120 miles from mega power Ohio State, Akron’s attendance surged after reaching its first bowl game in 10 years. A new picnic area near the field complements pre- and post-game concerts and fireworks to enhance auxiliary entertainment. Parking lots now open at 7 a.m. for game-day tailgaters.“We want you here all day,” said George Van Horne, Akron’s senior associate athletics director for development and marketing.Athletic departments long for the casual fans. Whereas invested supporters, such as Michael N. Siiss, are easier to draw.Siiss and his father have been Syracuse football season ticket holders since 1993. The Schenectady, New York, residents keep their tickets through years of national prominence and struggle.“We’ve stuck with it because it’s a good bonding time for my father and I,” Siiss said. “He can tell me what the games were like back at the old Archbold Stadium. It’s a chance we have we can spend together from the capital district out to Syracuse.“It isn’t going to stop because there’s a few down seasons.”Kiran Ramsey | Digital Design EditorStill, Syracuse history has proved winning teams draw more fans. The year the Carrier Dome opened, 1980, Syracuse football attendance soared. It dropped in 1986, a 5-6 year sandwiched between seven- and 11-win seasons. Syracuse’s all-time high came in 1989, when the Orange finished 8-4 amid a 6-year stretch of Bowl Game appearances.Over-branding can drive fans away from teams, Bocketti cautioned. Fans can feel separated from players, less ownership and less affinity for a team when they sense it belongs to corporate sponsors.How accessible the stadium is, where parking lies and how large venues are also contribute. Stadiums that are too big can always seem empty, Bocketti said, keeping fans away.“If I see on TV the stadium is half empty, it’s 82 degrees and it’s a sunny day, I am not going to attend the game,” said Thilo Kunkel, a professor of sport management at Temple University. “Why should I attend if there’s no one else there?”The next step for Syracuse is to sport a winning team. How the Orange performs in its final three home games, against No. 17 Virginia Tech and then North Carolina State and No. 14 Florida State, may determine whether fans flock to the Dome — or signify more down years to come.“Everyone’s along for the ride as we do this,” Di Fino said. Comments Published on October 13, 2016 at 12:27 am Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more