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Enormous, Humongous Crowds of People

Publication Date: September 13, 2005

Play Somewhere Else

Here's the list of all regular season baseball games that drew over 10,000 fans last year:

2/12  Rice-Texas A&M            21995    Minute Maid Park, Houston
5/10  Creighton-Nebraska        20011    Rosenblatt Stadium, Omaha
4/27  Georgia-Georgia Tech      14398    Turner Field, Atlanta
5/14  Oklahoma-Oklahoma State   13066    Bricktown Ballpark, Oklahoma City
2/13  Houston-Texas A&M         12928    Minute Maid Park, Houston
4/19  Tulane-Louisiana State    12069    Zephyr Field, New Orleans
5/13  Oklahoma State-Oklahoma   11109    Drillers Stadium, Tulsa
4/09  Auburn-Mississippi State  10978    Dudy Noble Field, Starkville

Now, what's the common thread among all of these games except one? Well, to be honest, there are two: All of them except the Auburn-MSU game took place off campus, and they all involved natural rivalries, whether in-conference or out.

We've now reached an interesting point in our attendance situation. While stadiums are going up all over the place, we still haven't reached the point where it's worth it to build a stadium that houses 10,000. As prima facie evidence for that, LSU, who has led the nation in attendance for as long as we can remember, is building a new stadium with capacity of around 8,000. On the other hand, there are games that can draw more than that; in some cases, much more. The solution to this, as it turns out, is to move the games off-campus in a few cases.

Now, college football has done this for years, and has actually moved away from it in recent years as home games became too valuable and stadiums became larger, but as far as I can tell, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State started this trend in baseball by realizing that they could fit a lot more people in if they moved the Bedlam Series to reasonably-sized minor league parks instead of playing on campus. The result has been what, in off years like this, is still an event that draws well, and which has been, in years when one or both teams are playing for a conference title, a huge draw. The last couple of years, though, seem to have brought a new trend, as the number of single games seems to be increasing. This has the advantage that, assuming that you're playing somewhere nearby, you can just move the big-draw Saturday game off-campus and play the other two at home. The largest single crowd to see an NCAA game came last year, as San Diego State and Houston rode the combination of a new stadium in Petco Park, the Tony Gwynn factor, and some great marketing to a 40,000+ crowd. I think this is a great trend -- attendance isn't everything, but events like that are the kind of thing that folks look back and say, "That's the day I became a fan" about.

It's also true that this works for teams that aren't going to draw 10,000. The best example I can find is a doubleheader in 2002 between Dayton and Bowling Green State, neither of whom average 400 fans at home, drew 8000 in Fifth Third Park in Dayton.

One other factor that needs to be addressed is the perception that West Coast teams can't draw and shouldn't bother. Ignoring for the moment the fact that San Diego is squarely on the West Coast, we've got to remember the perspective. I wouldn't want to try to market a football team in L. A., for example, but in this case, where we only need 15,000 fans to announce it as a huge success and the breakeven point for the effort needed to go off-campus is probably around 5,000, I think it'll work.

With all that in mind, then, here are some games that I want to see happen and where:

Cal State Fullerton-USC          Dodger Stadium
Cal State Fullerton-Stanford     Dodger Stadium/SBC Park
Rice-Texas                       Minute Maid Park/Dell Diamond
Arizona-Arizona State            Bank One Ballpark/Tucson Electric Park
Miami-Florida State              Pro Player Stadium
Notre Dame-Wichita State         Victory Field (Indianapolis)
North Carolina-NCSU              Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Nebraska-Wichita State           Rosenblatt Stadium
Mississippi-Tennessee            Autozone Park (Memphis)
UNLV-Nevada                      Cashman Field (Las Vegas)
Alabama-Auburn                   Hoover Metropolitan Stadium (Birmingham)

Other News

There are a couple of developments I want to pass along on the home gaming front. First of all, a reader has put together an excellent set of cards for the APBA Table Baseball Game and has them available at his web site. He's looking for help in extending the set, so feel free to pitch in.

In exciting news for those whose reflexes are in better shape than mine, EA Sports has announced that they will be producing an NCAA version of their soon-to-be-discontinued MLB game, complete with drool-worthy graphics. We'll see how they do on reproducing your favorite stadium, but it looks good so far.

Finally, I want to give some praise to Jim Morris and staff at Miami and to the staff at Daytona Beach Community College for contributing to the AllCoachesCare auction to benefit Katrina survivors. Coaches, it's not too late to contribute. Everybody else, go bid, even if you don't live in Florida.

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Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Enormous, Humongous Crowds of People About the author, Boyd Nation