Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Where Are All The Fans?

Two weeks of football playoff games are now in the book and in the Sac-Joaquin Section the semi-final games will be played this weekend in Divisions I, II and III.

In D-2 action Elk Grove will host St. Mary's Friday. If the Herd wins that means they'll be in the Section championship game for the third year in a row. They lost to Folsom two years ago and to Del Oro last season.

In Div.I, 13th seeded Monterey Trail will travel to top-seed Folsom. Monterey Trail hopes to be back in the big game for the first time in four years. 

But, this past week the social media was ablaze with reports that the crowds were quite small, virtually void of students, in stadiums where the second round games were played.

The home bleachers at EGHS Friday during its playoff game vs. Wood

Fox 40’s Mark Demsky posted a photo of a mostly-empty bleacher at Elk Grove High School during the Herd’s second round win over Will C. Wood High School.

Lots of fans and coaches weighed in via Facebook, even the head coach of Division I’s top-seed, Folsom, who had been packing the stands with fans at their Prairie City Stadium most of the past five years.

“We went from a packed student section to nobody in the student section,” Kris Richardson wrote. “Let the kids in free with a student body card!!”

The same kind of reports came in from the Tracy-Jesuit game on Saturday along with the Vacaville/Del Oro playoff contest Friday.

All playoff games operate under the auspices of the Section and admission prices rise to generally $9 for adults and $7 for students.  Most schools allow their own students in free or with a small charge during the regular season. But, in the playoffs, the gate revenue statewide goes to the area Section office.

“Currently, an adult can watch a high school football game for less than the price of a movie,” the Sac-Joaquin Section’s director of communications Will DeBoard wrote in an email. “I don’t’ think that is totally out of line.”

But, DeBoard does admit he is concerned that the student attendance was down.

“It’s fair to say we’d like to see more kids at the games,” he wrote. “They bring an atmosphere that adults don’t. The bottom line is charging for admission is something we have to do to keep going as a resource for our schools. We take the vast majority of our budget from the playoff games …”

On their website, the Section writes that 90 percent of its revenue is derived from gate admissions with football its biggest revenue source.

But, the Facebook comments went beyond ticket prices, claiming that some early round matchups were just plain not attractive.

“Sixteen teams qualifying for the football playoffs in each division is just too many,” Karl Grubaugh, a journalism teacher at Granite Bay, wrote. “In round one there were a ton of blowouts because so many teams were so mismatched, so cut down to eight teams per division.”

But, the playoffs were expanded by the Section a few years specifically to make certain all deserving teams got in, according to DeBoard.

“Does this mean some undeserving teams get it? Yes, they do,” DeBoard wrote.

“The playoffs used to be much smaller than they are now and we had 8-2, even 9-1 teams not making team. Max Miller (former Cordova H.S. coach) had a 9-1 team that didn’t make the playoffs one year.”

“I’m sure there’s a happy medium somewhere, where every game is a great game and only evenly-matched teams are playing, but we had a lot of league champions get blown out in the first week, too,” he continued. “When you have the Olympic model of every league receiving a certain amount of playoff berths, you are going to have ugly games because not every league is created equal.”

In the first two rounds of the playoffs, four games in Division I and four in Division II were decided by 40 or more points. 

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