Will Fans Return To Football This Autumn?

The recent depression of national interest in football is a common story after February’s dismal Super Bowl ratings. The expectations in the run-up to the big event were high, after all, in part because it was assumed that a year of being shut-up indoors for quarantine or social distancing would spur excitement — finally, something to be happy about! But that’s not the way it happened. 

Stadiums were obviously not filled to capacity because of general COVID-19 precautions and restrictions, but why on Earth were television ratings down? Fans of football had nothing to do but sit at home and watch the game!

This has the directors of college sports programs especially worried. Many universities were forced to cut spending on sports programs (others actually took the opposite approach, but they were the minority), and rely on crowded stadiums to generate sufficient revenue to justify a team’s existence. What happens to college sports if the fans don’t come back this fall?

Dynamic Pricing Partners recently conducted a survey that provided a promising result: 72 percent of colleges believe crowds this fall will lead to full stadiums.

Dr. Michael Lauzardo, the Florida Director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at UF Health, said, “I want to be in a full stadium again. I want to be able to watch the game with people in the stadiums without cardboard cut-outs.” He added, “The more you’ve been in lockdown, the more you’re in lockdown. You’re just scared. You’re worried. It just messes with you.”

But others suggest stadiums might not fill up at all because the mob mentality regarding these public gatherings has already evolved. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, “There is a psychology of public assembly that will probably evolve. People are going to have to ask themselves if they want to sit cheek by jowl with people they don’t know and maybe people that don’t have masks. You don’t know if they’re vaccinated or not.”