I’ve been reading for the past couple of weeks how football attendance numbers are down. It is an issue not just at Kentucky, it’s everywhere. In particular, this article by John Pennington at MrSEC.com says that empty seats are a problem all across the nation. He says the economy, rising ticket prices, and television deals are making it less appealing to actually go to football games.
So that got me thinking. Maybe Kentucky’s football ticket sales woes are more than just fan disappointment in the head coach? Maybe when compared to their conference foes, Kentucky won’t look too far out of line? Don’t count on it; wishful thinking on my part. When comparing each SEC teams home opener attendance numbers to stadium capacity, Kentucky ranked dead last. And it wasn’t even close.
EDIT: Corrected an error that had Tennessee playing NC State at home. That game was played at a neutral site in week one.
The Cats played Kent State, arguably one of the “better” opponents any SEC team played in their home opener. Aside from Texas A&M who opened against Florida, or Vanderbilt who faced South Carolina, Kentucky played one of the better teams of any SEC school in their home debut. No argument can be made that the opponent kept the fans away from Commonwealth Stadium. If Mississippi State can show up for Jackson State, Kentucky can show up for Kent State.
Kentucky’s numbers look better on paper than it did in person. Against the Golden Flashes, the lower bowl of Commonwealth Stadium was full, but large patches in the upper deck were completely vacant. The 48,000 in attendance culminated in the smallest crowed Commonwealth Stadium has seen since 1999.
I set out looking for a possible excuse. Not to bail out Joker Phillips or the football team, but some other explanation of low fan turnout for a season opener. But it’s not happening. It’s not the economy, opponents or television deals keeping fans away. It’s their own football team they don’t want to see. That’s a big problem Joker is now facing head on.