It’s no secret that attendance at University of Akron football games leaves much to be desired. The usual raucous crowds that accompany collegiate football contests that are filled with student sections swaying side to side with whatever tune the band is thunderously sounding are just flat not there at Akron Zip football games. In fact, the visiting sideline can usually be a bit louder and more passionate than the home stands and student section combined. But why? Well, let’s step back and look at this from a numbers standpoint.
For the 2015 campaign (2016 attendance numbers are yet to be calculated), the Zips saw a crowd increase of about 2.3 percent from the previous season per Ohio.com. However, that worked out to only 32,280 people over the course of six home games. This, broken down to a per game averaged, comes to 5,380 people walking through the gates each game. Obviously, for a stadium that holds 30,000 people and cost over $65 million to build, these are not good numbers for UA. The usual mass amount of money that comes from ticket sales just simply is not there, which leads to a drastic drop in sales in other departments. Food and beverage, merchandise, and more also suffer at the hands of poor attendance. Stock up the team store with all the cool jerseys and hoodies you want, it won’t matter if no one is there to buy it or even see it for that matter. This all, of course, coming in arguably the best season ever for the Zips which ended in a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl victory over Utah State.
To find some answers on how to fix this, I interviewed students and older fans alike to find out what both sides think can bring in more people to the games (see SoundCloud link below). One common answer found across the board? NO MORE WEEKDAY GAMES. The thought behind weekday games this is clear. Grabbing some quick, discounted ESPN time during the weekday to shed some national exposure onto the program. A lot of previous gimmicks mixed into these games have brought fans out as well. Just two years ago, a Tuesday night game against Bowling Green promised to send 6 kids home with free tuition at halftime. The first half had students and older fans alike going crazy and cheering on the Zips passionately since there were so many people there. After the winners of the tuition were announced, however… well let’s just say that stadium emptied rather quickly. When the team is not winning these games and the stadium is empty, the results are counterproductive to what this program wants to achieve. Many seem to believe that having weekday games can mess with some players’ psyche since it is not that usual “wake up on Saturday because it’s gameday” feel. The Zips finished this season on 4 consecutive weekday games, losing every single one of them. This is utter disaster for a program that, after getting its first bowl victory ever just a year ago, had lots of promise and potential coming into this season. A slew of injuries at the quarterback position left third stringer Tyrell Goodman to lead the offense down the stretch of the season. This tough finish to the season leaves the Zips at 5-7, missing out on bowl season yet again.
Maybe next season the Zips will muster up a winning record and get back into Bowl Season. And heck, while they’re at it, they might just come up with a way to get fans to come see it happen.