The Bottom Line on State Championship Attendance
Updated: December 21, 2015
Attendance Becomes Hot-Button Issue in Texas High School Football Championship Games
The 2015 season is in the books with the final ten championship games at NRG Stadium in Houston and one of the hottest topics of conversation was the lack of record-breaking attendance numbers this year.
Yes, the big question this year is attendance in the state championship game. The DFW folks were quick to decry the attendance differential (-94,509) between the 2014 games at AT&T Stadium and this year at NRG Stadium. Calls to make Jerry's World the permanent home for the state championship were quickly voiced. Houston area peeps responded saying that the spoiled brats in DFW suffer from affluenza and won't travel.
Here are the facts:
- The #1 factor in attendance is the fan following/tradition of a team. If the teams with large followings are in the the title game, butts will be in seats.
- The #2 factor is the proximity of fans and venue
- There are a host of other factors that can affect attendance (weather, world events, economics etc.) and the uncertainty in the economy and fear of bad things happening in large public gatherings could have played a tiny role. I don't think those things factored in at all however.
- In 2014 the makeup of the teams in the title games was quite different:
- 2014 - DFW (5 teams,) East Texas (5 teams,) Central (5 teams,) Houston (3 teams,) North Texas (2 teams)
- 2015 - Central (7 teams,) DFW (4 teams,) Houston (3 teams,) East Texas (2 teams,) North Texas (2 teams,) Gulf Coast (1 team)
- The number of relatively new teams this year was at an all-time high (tradition takes time.)
- People are understanding more and more that every single one of the games is available LIVE on Fox Sports Southwest. As they continue to put out a great broadcast each year, expect it to continue to eat into attendance.
- Houston's NRG Stadium put on an excellent state championship weekend. There is nothing bad that can be said about the venue.
The dropoff in teams from East Texas (from 5 to 2) and the DFW Region (5 to 4) means that a lot of tradition rich schools just weren't there. These schools have some of the most rabid fan bases in the state and just weren't there.
Even for the Houston teams, with the exception of Katy (who would bring 40,000 to a hay field in Oregon,) there were not teams that we expect to fill a venue.
- Galena Park North Shore has a great fan base but they have never been rabid traveling fans.
- Richmond George Ranch has one of the strongest social media followings in the Houston area but as it is such a new school, there are not generations of fans yet.
If you are going to blame a region for the lack of attendance, you have to start with Central Texas. 70% of the teams were from Central Texas. Austin Lake Travis, Austin Westlake and Cedar Park brought rabid fans and certainly did their part.
The carryover factor is also a very big thing (fans coming to see a team they are passionate about and staying for more good football.) With the attendance slip in each game, it compounded the slide when combined with the next game and the next etc.
The fact that Houston swept to victory in their matches and DFW fell flat, the argument for a rotation also came up. I can tell you without a doubt that rotation the venue is good for Texas high school football. But, don't forget my proposal at the start of the season for UIL Stadium (#4 in that installment of Five BIG Things!)
As you can see, there are many factors that go into whether a seat is empty or full. As humans however, we are designed to find meaning in things. We find the meaning that fits our world view... whether it be that DFW area football is the best or Houston area football is the best. We look for things that help make our arguments. Remember though that correlation does not imply causation.
It was a down year for attendance. There will be up years and down years. Let's just enjoy every year we get to be a part of "the greatest sport in the greatest state" ™
by Chris Doelle