Friday Big East mailbag: Attendance and stadiums

November, 6, 2009
11/06/09
1:15
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

I'm back for some more mailbag answers, and this time you don't have to look at my ugly mug.

Keith from Pittsburgh writes: Your latest entry about attendance in the Big East is a good one. Pitt is actually pulling in fans, and that 50k number will certainly go up in the later part of the season with Syracuse, ND, and Cincinnati coming to town. But the convincing stat is percentage of stadium occupied. While Heinz Field is a great pro facility, when it is only 75 percent full for Pitt games the atmosphere struggles. The student section itself is small seeing that students need to get on a bus to attend the game. We have lost the campus experience of attending a college football game. This affects alumni attendance as well as students. The flip side is that Wanny can tout the fact that incoming freshman will play and practice along side the Steelers. This has to be a draw come decision time. What should Pitt do?

Brian Bennett: There's not much Pitt can do, if you're suggesting a venue change, because they're going to play at Heinz Field for the foreseeable future. And while we all love on-campus stadiums, Heinz is a beautiful place that's really not that far from the school. I've been to a few Pitt games there in the past two years and have been underwhelmed by the atmosphere, including the South Florida game when there were gobs of empty seats.

I know Pittsburgh is a Steelers town, and high school football is big on Friday nights, but it seems like the city should be big enough to support the Panthers, too. If Pitt fans don't pack the place now with an exciting, 7-1 team that's in line for a Big East title, I'm not sure they ever will.


Amanda from Tampa writes: This coming from a Cincinnati fan living in Tampa. I'd actually like to defend USF saying they sell 120 percent of their stadium. Usually they only open the lower-level only (so that's probably considered their capacity), unless it's a game in high demand (like the Cincinnati game, WVU game, etc.) then they'll open the upper level. That's probably why it's 120 percent for those games that they open the upper level.

Brian Bennett: Amanda, that must be the reason for the figure, but it seems very disingenuous. Your capacity should be the actual stadium capacity, not the parts you choose to open -- especially if you open them whenever you want. In fact, in South Florida's own official game notes, the stadium capacity is listed at over 65,000. The Bulls have had some of the biggest crowds in the entire Big East the past few years. There's no need to fudge the numbers.


Gary J. from Cincinnati writes: Could UConn and Rutgers play their yearly football game in NYC (Giants Stadium or Yankee Stadium ) each year? They could still play six home games in their campus stadiums. Set up a game similar to the Florida vs Georgia or Texas vs Oklahoma game. Hold the game on the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year. This would increase attendance, raise some more revenue, help improve our conference image and it would receive some excellent TV and press coverage.

Brian Bennett: I like the idea in theory, and Rutgers has shown it doesn't mind moving a home game, as it just announced this week that next year's game against Army will be the first college football game in the new Giants Stadium. That could be a good place for a UConn-Rutgers game. However, as my attendance post points out, these two teams first need to fill their own stadiums before they should think about going somewhere bigger. And it's hard to give up a home conference game when they are so valuable. UConn-Rutgers is growing into a rivalry, but it's nowhere near Texas-Oklahoma or Georgia-Florida.


Matt from Cincinnati writes: There seems to be a scenario to finish out the season that no one is talking about. If LSU beat Alabama this weekend, that will put the Tigers in great position to go to the SEC title game. LSU then gets their second crack at Florida and this time they solve the puzzle. Assuming Iowa loses and Cincinnati and Texas run the table, then we will have a great mess on our hands. Texas will be in the BCS title game for sure. But the real debate will be if an undefeated Big East team deserves to be in ahead of a one-loss SEC powerhouse.

Two questions about this hypothetical scenario. Would LSU or UC get the nod? Would this be the downfall of the BCS system as we know it?

Brian Bennett: That would be the cause of a great debate, and I think you already know where most national analysts would go with their opinion. Of course they would say the great SEC should get its champion into the BCS title game even with one loss. I would argue that Cincinnati should go, since it's an undefeated BCS conference team. LSU would almost certainly have stronger strength-of-schedule numbers with two games against Florida and one against Alabama. It would come down to poll voters, many of whom would be more likely to vote for a traditional SEC team than a more unknown quality like Cincinnati.

As for the downfall of the BCS, that will only happen when fans stop buying tickets and watching those games on TV. It's a great moneymaker, and that's all that matters to those in charge.


E.J. N Aurora, Ohio, writes: Brian, I enjoyed your recent series on the Big East vs the Big Ten. Now the important question: You vs Adam Rittenberg. Three sports: basketball, golf and corn hole. If conference superiority is on the line, who wins?

Brian Bennett: Thanks for making me laugh, E.J. I don't know about Adam's golf game, but I know mine is terrible. I'm a pretty mean corn hole player when I've had the right amount of my favorite beverage, so I give myself the edge there. And as for basketball? Well, come on. I'm from Kentucky, after all. It's no contest.

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