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Every time I think conference realignment is going to slow down for a second, my phone blows up and more news keeps trucking along. Last week, we broke the news that Austin Peay was moving to the ASUN from the OVC, a move that has now been made official (unlike former OVC peers Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State, APSU reportedly plans on paying their exit fees). This move will accelerate other conference realignment conversations already happening across D-II, FCS, and D-1AAA.
But those aren't the only realignment conversations happening right now. In the latest Going For Two, Bryan Fischer, who is now back from paternity leave and mostly awake, and I break down what we're hearing on a multitude of conference realignment fronts.
Specifically, we discuss:
- Where we expect the OVC, ASUN, and other FCS leagues to go after the APSU move.
- The latest info we're hearing about the AAC's plans to restock the league after the departures of UCF, Cincinnati and Houston, with an emphasis on their plans to expand out West.
- The different potential directions the MWC could take, from doubling down on college basketball, extending to Texas, dipping into established FCS markets, or some combination thereof.
- Why we think the Sun Belt is more likely to add teams than lose teams in realignment.
- Why any MWC team not named Boise State would entertain leaving for the AAC (hint: it isn't really about TV money).
- Where we think the dust settles with Conference USA.
- And more:
We recorded this podcast on Monday afternoon, but I don't think any of this should be outdated at this point. Of course, by typing this, that means the AAC will hold a press conference at 9:00 CT Wednesday morning. You know how these things go.
Going For Two is the official podcast of Extra Points, and drops every Wednesday, completely for free. You can subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, and anywhere else you get your podcasts.
I've heard a few administrators suspect this might be true, but I think this is the first time I've seen anybody say so in public. Officials at Oregon State believe that the school's requirement that football game attendees either show proof of COVID vaccination or negative test is negatively impacting attendance.
For the time being, Oregon State requires spectators to show their vaccination card or a COVID-19 test before they can enter the stadium. It has clearly had an impact on attendance. Oregon, which has the same policy as OSU, has also experienced a drop in actual attendance. Also impacting attendance is some spectators’ reluctance to be part of a crowd because of COVID-19 concerns.
Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes said the school was experiencing a spike in season ticket sales this summer.
“For the first time in a decade, we started to see growth in our season ticket base,” Barnes said.
As soon as the vaccination/COVID-19 test policy was announced on Aug. 20, ticket sales stopped cold. OSU ended up giving credit or refunding some 650 season tickets.
In addition, Barnes said the secondary and single-game ticket market has little life.
“We are getting direct feedback that it’s the vaccine,” Barnes said.
I'm not criticizing Oregon State's policy here. If you're going to bring 30,000+ people into one facility, requiring vaccination is probably a good idea. But even in a relatively blue state like Oregon, political and ideological attitudes across a fan base can be mixed, and there really isn't anything OSU can do that won't risk alienating some part of the fan base. After all, some fans aren't showing up because they don't feel comfortable about sitting right next to 30,000 other people at the moment.
There was a time over the summer when I know some reporters and analysts expected college football attendance to skyrocket this season, since so many fans missed going to games so much. Maybe that happened over the first week or two, but if that is supposed to be sustained over a season. Over the weekend, my alma mater, a place where crowds over 100,000 are a given, the Buckeyes drew just 76,540, their smallest number since the early 1970s.
I think we're more likely to read more stories of places struggling to sell tickets than selling the joint out. Locations with more restrictive public health policies, while safer, are going to alienate some fans, while others aren't going to feel safe without them (or hell, even with them). Attendance was dropping even before the pandemic, thanks to lousy game inventory, high prices, and a declining quality of experience. With so many schools struggling with staffing their security, parking and concessions departments, the quality of the experience is likely to lag for a while yet. Expect long lines just about anywhere you go.
I don't blame anybody for wanting to brave those conditions, but right now, personally, I don't think I'll be covering any games this year. I'd love to go back, but after spending so many months trying to build this newsletter while my kids were stuck at home, I don't think I want to risk either of them having to stay home another week or two because I got sick at a Northwestern football game or something. If I'm going to venture into that kind of crowd, I think I'd need a better reason than that.
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