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Archive for Wednesday, January 15, 1992

WOODLING COLUMN

January 15, 1992

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Figures don't lie, but it all depends on which figures Did you see the story that came out of the NCAA office last week about college football attendance?

If you did, you may have noticed that Kansas' 1991 Memorial Stadium crowds averaged 29,932 per game. That number surprised me because Susan Wachter, the Jayhawks' assistant athletic director for business, had given me a different figure a few days earlier.

Her total was 30,509 per game. . .or 577 more per opening than the NCAA reported.

Why the difference?

"Those (NCAA numbers) were done on Dec. 1 before we did our audit," she told me. "They were estimates. The ones I gave you were based on our audit at the end of the year."

Her estimates were not, however, the same as the ones announced by KU officials on game day. If those had been correct, Kansas would have averaged 34,800 fans per game. Game-day estimates are almost invariably high.

"I THINK A lot of schools let those (game-day) estimates stand when they report to the NCAA," Wachter said.

Like Kansas State, for instance. KSU reported its average crowd during the '91 season at 29,061 based on day-of-the-game guesses.

Trivia question: Which Kansas home game drew the largest crowd last fall?

Nebraska? Nope. Missouri? Huh, uh. The home opener against Tulsa? No. It was New Mexico State. Buoyed by several thousand Band Day participants, the official count that September afternoon was 36,114.

KU's smallest crowd watched the season finale against Missouri.

Only 24,613 fans the game-day estimate was 28,000 braved mid-30 degree temperatures and a brutal northwest wind to watch Tony Sands' unforgettable 58-carry, 396-yard day against the Tigers.

The Nebraska game lured 33,207 fans, at least 7,000 of them clad in red. The homecoming contest against Iowa State brought 30,399 to Memorial Stadium while the official count for the Tulsa game was 28,212.

KANSAS RETURNS to a six-game home schedule this fall, featuring a Thursday night ESPN game against Cal. Also on the slate are Ball State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Colorado and Oklahoma State.

That's an attractive home schedule and, with the Jayhawks coming off their first winning season in a decade, perhaps attendance will take a dramatic upturn this fall, a $2 price hike to $18 per ticket notwithstanding.

Kansas football crowds have been lingering around the 30,000 level for the last five or six years whereas back in the late 60s and early 70s, KU averaged around 40,000 per game.

If Kansas were still averaging 40,000 a game, the athletic department wouldn't be on easy street, but it wouldn't be caught in its current tight financial squeeze, either.

Certainly diminished win-loss records have accounted for most of the attendance dropoff, but ancient Memorial Stadium is part of the problem, too. It's a relic of the early 20s the oldest stadium in the Big Eight Conference and the eighth oldest in the nation.

MEMORIAL STADIUM isn't going to win any awards for aesthetics, for architectural brilliance or for ease of access. Yet, thanks to an expensive rehab project in the late 70s, it is structurally sound.

No doubt a new stadium would re-ignite interest in Kansas football in much the same way a winning season would. But stadiums cost money, and neither the state nor individual benefactors have deep pockets in these recessionary times.

Quality football and a contemporary stadium go hand-in-hand. But which is the chicken? And which is the egg?

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