Preps Talk

Where are the fans? Lower playoff attendance an issue for IHSA football games

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Where are the fans? Lower playoff attendance an issue for IHSA football games

No one gets as excited for the IHSA football state playoffs than I do. We've already had some big time upsets, amazing last-second come-from-behind wins and other bizarre finishes. 

I spent the first two rounds covering six different games. And without being too much of a Debbie Downer, I ask this question: Where did all of the fans go?

The overwhelming majority of regular season football games are on Friday night. But schools are agreeing to shift playoff games back one day --to Saturday-- and it's a trend we're seeing happen earlier and earlier in the month of November/IHSA playoff season. I have no doubts that overall fan attendance is negatively impacted. And seemingly, never more so than this playoff season. 

Why? 

It's pretty difficult to point to any one specific reason; however, I feel that several issues have had a snowball effect on overall attendance for the first two rounds:

First off, kids and families are busier on Saturdays. There are other activities and IHSA sports taking place on this day. That, and the fact that some kids work on the weekend could lead to a dip in fan attendance. 

And let's face it, the weather last Saturday wasn't great. Bad weather always has an impact on overall attendance. Teams and coaches generally move games to Saturdays for several reasons. Playing at, ideally, the warmest part of the day is certainly a part of that. While last Friday night was the better of the two days for overall weather, it's tough to argue that Saturday day games make the most sense at this time of the season.

[MORE: High School Lites - Second Round Recap]

What are some other issues that could be keeping game attendance down? 

Live streaming. You can literally sit at home in front of your computer, tablet or phone and watch nearly every single IHSA football state playoff game for a $9.95 monthly fee. And again, this advancement in technology is great for relatives and alumi, who may not live in the area anymore, who want to catch the games. While the streaming quality and overall production value still varies greatly from school to school, the overall user experience has improved. The overall quality is much better-- and those improvements have been made in a very short amount of time.

While this remains a great option for fans (a venture that's fully endorsed by the IHSA and its streaming broadcast partner NFHS network), has it quickly become too much of a good thing for fans? And how much does it impact attendance? It could be a pressing issue in the coming years.

Also, perhaps we can try to find a way to avoid charging students the $5 gate fee for playoff games? I realize that the IHSA has bills to cover and all of that, but can't we get creative and try to find a way of encouraging students to get into the games without the toll? Maybe a portion from the live online streaming monies generated can go towards the gate fee for students?

Are lower participation numbers for high school football itself affect the numbers in the stands? I truly don't believe this is the case just yet. I witnessed much higher regular season numbers earlier this fall. But is it worth consideration? No question.

I'm hopeful that we will see jam-packed stands from here on out as we get closer to crowning eight separate state champions on Thanksgiving weekend.

But I also can't help but wonder if this is simply a blip on the radar or the start of a much bigger issue. 
 

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

High School Lites had a busy show as it was the final week of the regular season for IHSA boys basketball Class 3A and 4A. The Class 1A and 2A playoffs also tipped in boys basketball as the show has some thrilling regional titles that were decided in the final minute. And finally, the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals were played on Friday as the state's top teams played in Bloomington.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Richards wrestler Mia Palumbo

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Simeon boys basketball

Highlights

Marshall shocks Leo in Class 2A regional final

Aurora Christian runs past Harvert Christian for 1A regional title

Buzzer-beater lifts Monticello over Gibson City for regional title

Jacobs goes unbeaten in Fox Valley with win over Dundee-Crown

West Aurora gets by rival East Aurora

Yorkville completes season sweep of DeKalb

Lemont escapes past T.F. North

Marshall needs OT to get past Teutopolis in girls 2A semifinals

Harlan takes down Eureka in 2A semifinals

Stockton runs by Okaw Valley in 1A

Schlarman races by Lebanon

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

High School Lites is down to the final week of the regular season in local high school hoops as the Class 3A and 4A schools finish up conference play. The boys basketball playoffs have also started as the Class 1A and Class 2A regional championships will be played on Friday night.

The girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals will also be featured. You can catch all of those games on NBC Sports Chicago on Friday beginning at 11 a.m. with the 1A semifinals. High School Lites will air Friday night at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago

East Aurora at No. 11 West Aurora, 7:00 p.m. -- These two rivals meet for the 225th time. The Blackhawks (20-4, 9-0) won the first matchup by 22 points as they try to finish the season on a 12-game winning streak. 

Jacobs at Dundee-Crown, 7:00 p.m. -- Fox Valley rivals match up as Jacobs tries to go unbeaten in the conference. The Eagles (23-3, 15-0) has been playing very well as they've won 20 of 21 games heading into this one -- including an earlier win against Dundee-Crown. The Chargers (14-11, 10-4) has won seven consecutive games since dropping to the Golden Eagles as they're second in the Fox Valley heading into this one. 

Yorkville at DeKalb, 7:00 p.m. -- The top two teams in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East play in this one. DeKalb (16-11, 11-1) has already clinched a share of the conference title as the team's only league loss has come against Yorkville. The Foxes (17-8, 10-2) knocked off DeKalb at their place on Feb. 3 as they try to win again to get a piece of the division title. 

T.F. North at Lemont, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the better teams in the South Suburban Blue battle on the eve of the playoffs. Lemont (17-8, 9-3) has picked up three straight wins entering this one. T.F. North (11-9, 9-3) is trying to build some momentum after recent close losses to Hillcrest and T.F. South.

Carmel at No. 10 Benet, 7:30 p.m. -- The ESCC closes out its season with this one. Benet (22-4, 7-1) is coming off a nice road win at Marian Catholic earlier this week. Carmel (17-10, 4-4) knocked off Joliet Catholic during the week as they've been a dangerous team in the ESCC. 

Class 2A Boys Basketball Regional Championships

Leo vs. Marshall, 6 p.m. -- The Lions are the favorites but the Commandos are the host of this regional title game. Leo (20-5, 8-0) has a 13-game winning streak as they won the Catholic League White. Marshall (8-17, 4-5) struggled in the win column but they were a competitive 4-5 in a very deep Public League Red-South. 

Uplift vs. Northridge, 7 p.m. -- This should be an interesting battle as Uplift is playing on the road at Northridge. Uplift (17-9, 6-3) has played an extremely competitive schedule that includes a recent close loss to No. 1 Simeon as Kansas commit Markese Jacobs and senior forward Toraze Dobbs are one of the best combinations in the Class 2A field. Northridge (22-5, 12-0) went unbeaten in the Independent School League this season as they're riding a 13-game winning streak.

Class 1A Boys Basketball Regional Championships 

Aurora Christian vs. Harvest Christian, 7 p.m. -- These two teams play for the third time this season in what should be an interesting regional title game. Aurora Christian (23-1, 10-0) is the host as they only lost to Winnebago this season. The Eagles beat Harvest Christian twice in a six-day span in December. Harvest Christian (18-8, 8-2) finished third in the Northeastern Athletic as they played the second game within two points. 

Class 1A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Okaw Valley vs. Stockton, 11 a.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Okaw Valley (29-5) is making its first state appearance after winning its first regional title in school history. Stockton (31-2) finished under .500 last season (13-15) and had an amazing turnaround that includes a current 15-game winning streak. 

Lebanon vs. Schlarman, 12:45 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- These two teams have combined for two losses this season as this should be a good one. Lebanon (31-1) just won its first sectional title in school history as they've now moved on to state. Schlarman (31-1) is led by junior Anaya Peoples, a Notre Dame commit and five-star prospect in the Class of 2019. 

Class 2A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Harlan vs. Eureka, 5:30 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two red-hot teams play in the first semifinal in Class 2A. Harlan (25-6) is riding a 12-game winning streak as this is its first appearance at state for girls basketball. Eureka (28-3) has a 19-game winning streak as they make their first state appearance since 1988.

Marshall vs. Teutopolis, 7:15 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two storied programs in the state match up in this one. Marshall (20-7) will be making its 21st state appearance as head coach Dorothy Gaters is one of the most storied coaches in Illinois. Teutopolis is making its 17th appearance at state as the Lady Shoes (28-6) seek their first title since 1995.