Maybe it’s because I’m caught up in this malaise of being a Georgia fan awaiting this home schedule, but I’m having a tough time reconciling what’s going on elsewhere in the SEC. About half of the stadiums in the SEC are increasing capacity. I suppose it’s necessary in the never-ending facilities race, but can Ole Miss even in its best years support a capacity of 70,000?
There seem to be two diverging vectors. You have the additional money pouring into a sport that’s as popular as ever, and that money gets turned into bigger and better facilities. On the other hand, attendence nationwide is stagnant at best. Games are ubiquitous on television, and that generates much of the massive windfalls associated with the sport, but that same widepsread coverage provides a pretty powerful incentive to stay at home – especially when it’s not a hyped game. Add crystal-clear HDTV, climate control, restrooms, a grill, a stocked fridge, and a few friends, and watching the game in Media Room Stadium can be very appealing. Attendence, especially at a major program, can’t be described as anything but a hassle. Climbing ticket prices, donation requirements, parking fees, and traffic all combine to make it an expensive and trying hobby. Even the experience of tailgating comes with a price tag at some schools (and soon ours?)
So why do we go? There’s still nothing like being there. You’re willing to put up with a lot for that moment when the team runs on the field or to be a part of the explosion of noise when Rambo turned Sanford upside down against Auburn last year. You’re less likely to put up with it for an early kickoff against Buffalo.
I don’t really think kickoff time matters. A weak schedule isn’t going to generate much more excitement at 1:00 than it is 7:00. Fans who struggle to arrive at such games on time will be the first ones to get on the road for a night game when the Dawgs have a 30-point halftime lead. And, as much as we put this on Adams and anti-tailgate people, I don’t really blame the school. Georgia’s campus has seen a construction boom (with more to come), and that means fewer places to park people for one of the nation’s largest stadiums. There aren’t many good solutions, and some of the better ones might involve a fee.
Maybe Ole Miss and other SEC schools putting money into bigger stadiums haven’t hit this critical mass yet. Alabama’s unprecedented demand seems like it could go on forever, but all it takes is the wrong coach to turn the expanded Bryant-Denny into what’s happening at Neyland.