Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It's Back

The home attendance for Scott Jurgens' last football game of last year was 10,001.

The attendance for his first game of this season was 49,023.

Obviously, Jurgens has gotten way better at marketing.

Or maybe he just switched employers. Jurgens went from being Princeton's athletic marketing person to working in the same position at East Carolina, where average attendance last year was 50,012 for Pirate football.

It's a different world, going from the Ivy League to an FBS school like East Carolina, especially one where the local college football team is the biggest game for miles around.

TigerBlog wouldn't want to make such a move. He loves being at Princeton, where there are 38 sports and as much as possible they are treated equally.

It was obvious during his time here that Jurgens wanted to be part of an FBS school. Hey, there's nothing wrong with that.

This past Saturday was the first football Saturday for Jurgens as the ECU marketing head.

And there was TB, flipping through the guide on the TV, seeing one college football game after another come up, until he stumbled upon East Carolina-Appalachian State.

Actually, the game was on three different channels on TB's TV.

TB put the game on, half expecting to see Jurgens' dog Barnaby wearing a purple vest throwing t-shirts into the crowd, all with that same "why didn't he leave me at the pound where I was happy" look on his face.

Instead, he saw App State cause a turnover, score a touchdown and go up 7-0. TB was willing to blame the marketing guy.

ECU came back to win 35-13 against one of the top FCS programs, a team that famously defeated Michigan in Ann Arbor a few years back.

This weekend was the start of the college football season, and there were about four million games on television, beginning Thursday night and running through last night's Virginia Tech win over Georgia Tech.

If you're wondering why college football has driven all of the conference realignments, even when the NCAA basketball tournament is such a preeminent event, well, all you had to do was look at this weekend. Stadium after stadium was packed, and the dollar amounts that this sport generates were there to smack you in the face.

The sanctions at Penn State were meant to among other things dial back the football-first, football-above-all culture that allowed Joe Paterno to achieve the status he did and then in turn drove him to protect at all costs what he had built. So what happened? PSU drew 97,000 fans for a game against Ohio (which the Nittany Lions lost).

Princeton obviously doesn't open its season until a week from Saturday, Sept. 15, at Lehigh. The Tigers play 10 games in 10 weeks, with no open dates along the way. It turns football into a sprint.

TB has always liked the way the Ivy League does it, though he'd be okay with opening a week earlier and having an off-week (or even opening two weeks earlier, having an off week, adding one game and allowing the league champion to go to the NCAA playoffs, though he understands well why all those things don't happen).

As TB watched the old marketing guy's team, he thought about the new marketing guy and the challenges that Princeton faces in marketing its own football team.

None of the issues that TB thought about are new - what would be considered good attendance, what should the University do to try to drive attendance, why don't people come, why do people come.

Add to this mix though the incredible saturation of football on television at the time when Ivy League games are being played, and it's even more difficult.

The weather is a huge issue here, and last year's home schedule was destroyed by three Saturdays of rain and one of snow.

But more and more, it's TV that is impacting attendance, TB thinks.

If you have a big screen, HD TV, you can watch any game you want, basically, and you never have to leave your house to do it.

It's hard to compete with that if you're an Ivy League school.

At the same time, if you're a college football fan and you're willing to be one with your couch for an entire Saturday, well, then this is about as good as it gets for you.

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