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. 
 

62 Days to Kickoff: Lincoln Park

62 Days to Kickoff: Lincoln Park

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

 

School: Lincoln Park

Head coach: Vince DeFrancesco

Assistant coaches: Steve Karoff, Grant Magnuson, Tyler Clark, Brandon Randolph, Alex Green and Tom Dellota

How they fared in 2017: 8-2 (7-0 Chicago Public League Chicago Big Shoulders Conference). Lincoln Park made the Class 7A state football playoff field. The Lions lost to Alton in opening round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ IWT Speer

Sept. 1 vs. Kenwood

Sept. 7 vs. Hubbard

Sept. 14 @ Phillips

Sept. 21 vs. Lane Tech

Sept. 28 vs. Taft

Oct. 5 vs. Westinghouse

Oct. 12 vs. Raby

Oct. 19 vs. Morgan Park

Biggest storyline: The Lions' new conference. Can Lincoln Park keep its winning ways when they start playing in the CPL/Illini Land of Lincoln this fall?

Names to watch this season: RB/LB Dane Romberger and DB Jalen Jenkins

Biggest holes to fill: The Lions will need to reload on the offensive side of the football this summer with just three starters back this fall.

EDGY's Early Take: Coach Vince DeFrancesco's Lions have been on a nice roll, getting to the IHSA state playoffs in each of his past three seasons (four straight for the school overall). However, the price for the Lions' success is extremely high. The CPL Illini Land of Lincoln is loaded. The schedule includes the likes of Kenwood, Hubbard, Phillips, Raby and Morgan Park...just to name a few. If the Lions can develop their less experienced offense this summer, all the better for them.

63 Days to Kickoff: Shepard

63 Days to Kickoff: Shepard

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Shepard

Head coach: John Rone

Assistant coaches: Andrew Porter, Ron Rivera, Chris Lewis, Ryan McGuire and Clint Connelly

How they fared in 2017: 8-2 (5-1 South Suburban Red Conference). Shepard made the Class 6A state football playoff field. The Astros lost to Marmion Academy in opening round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Leyden

Sept. 1 @ Stagg

Sept 7 vs Hillcrest

Sept. 14 vs Eisenhower

Sept. 21 @ Richards

Sept. 28 @ Oak Lawn

Oct. 5 vs Reavis

Oct. 12 vs Evergreen Park

Oct. 19 @ Argo

Biggest storyline: First-year head coach John Rone. Can the Astros challenge once again for the South Suburban Red conference title under a new head coach?

Names to watch this season: RB/LB Chris Harrison and TE/DE Kevin Graham

Biggest holes to fill: The Astros bring back 10 returning starters (five offense, five defense). Overall depth could also be a concern.  

EDGY's Early Take: Shepard will be led by former Eisenhower assistant Rone, who was able to retain an experienced staff at Shepard. It will help ease the transition from former head coach Dominic Passolano this summer. If the Astros can get off to a good early start they have the overall talent to again make a state playoff appearance in 2018. Can they challenge conference power Richards in the South Suburban Red race?