In an story reported CBS Sports in March of 2019 based upon a report from the NCAA 2018 college football attendance sank to its lowest mark in 22 years. Every Power 5 conference saw attendance decline in 2018 and among 129 FBS programs, the attendance was the least since 1996. Even National Champion Clemson suffered an attendance decline last season. The first indication of decline according to the analysis by CBS Sports writer Joe Vitale is the student population at games. For example those attending games at Western Carolina University have heard the concerns of how quickly the student sections empty after the Pride Of The Mountains Marching Band Halftime Show. So if students will not stay for the second half, walk across campus for any of the game, or leave the stadium area after the pregame tailgate party then why would those individuals attend games once they graduate.
Seems in the realm of possibility that declines in HIGH SCHOOL football attendance mirror the national trend of declining attendance in college football. The Mountain Six Conference has concluded that local radio stations are the culprit for attendance declines. The year 1957 was when local radio stations in Franklin, Murphy, and Sylva signed on the air and Bryson City started in 1957. WWNC in Asheville was earlier and the Haywood county stations followed shortly after. These local radio stations soon commenced broadcasting high school football and basketball games. Some of the stations aired high school and little league baseball. The airtime really was a two or three hour commercial for the school and their athletic program and the schools were excited to get it. Radio stations bore the expense of a commercial land line phone service at each of the schools. Occasionally local stadiums were close enough to the radio station so a less expensive Marti Short wave radio system could be used. Now the local radio stations use cell phone service and distribute the games over both AM, FM, and the internet. Fans working during game times, siblings in the military, relatives living far away, sick, home bound, or just not able to attend a particular game can listen to all or a part of the game. Suppose an individual hears of an upcoming rivalry game or hears an exciting game on the radio and decides to come to the stadium and pay the admission fee, the Mountain Six Conference gives local radio no credit for the free game and school athletic program promotion. The Mountain Six Conference has decided that local radio caused the drop in attendance and has initialed a hefty broadcast fee for visiting radio stations. Suppose local radio stations stopped offering coaches shows, no outstanding player recognition, no hype nor mention of the games, no game broadcasts, and generally ignored the athletic programs and attendance continued to drop then who would the Mountain Six Conference blame? The $200 broadcast fee for the visiting team radio for football, $100 for basketball, and $50 for baseball is a penalty placed upon a local radio stations that for over 70 years has stuck with local athletic teams whether their record has been 0 and 10 or 13 and 0. Now adding insult to injury, the Mountain Six Conference allows an entity to provide a game blog at no charge, yet the blogger can charge for access if they choose. Also at times during game broadcast the radio station will lose the cell phone connection due to a shortage of band width caused by the number of fans texting scores or video. In my opinion this Mountain Six and other conferences fee assessment is a short sighted decision that will not solve the attendance problem. So the next time your favorite game is not to be heard on the radio, place the phone call to be Mountain Six Conference or the local school’s Athletic Director.