Football Bowl Subdivision attendance fell for the seventh time in eight seasons in 2018 to 41,856 fans per game, the lowest mark in the past 22 seasons. The usual culprits were blamed in what has become an annual bout of soul-searching: HDTVs give fans a better view of the game, stadium WiFi stinks, tickets and parking are too expensive, students care less about their schools’ teams, etc.
“We’re competing more than ever before against the television product we helped create,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports in March. “There’s no line at the restroom. The beer is always cold [at home]. You don’t have to invest eight hours going to the stadium. There’s no parking fees. You don’t have to pay seat license, and on your 70-inch TV it’s a pretty good viewing experience.”
Louisiana Lafayette actually bucked the trend in 2018: On their way to their first non-losing season since 2014, the Ragin’ Cajuns drew 18,551 fans per game to 41,426-seat Cajun Field in 2018, an increase of about 18 percent from 2017 and one of the biggest improvements in all of major college football. But still, that’s a precipitous 36.4 percent drop from the program’s peak attendance year in 2011, when Louisiana-Lafayette averaged a Sun Belt-record 29,171.
To further stem the tide, the school announced Thursday that it was following the lead of other sports teams, most notably the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, in slashing prices on the food and drink served at the stadium. And when you look at the breakdown of the prices, which the school has split into two categories, the word “slashing” might actually be an understatement because it really doesn’t get much cheaper than $1 hot dogs and $2 beers.
— Hot Dog, $1
— Popcorn, $1
— Fried Potato Chips, $1
— Cheese Quesadilla, $2
— 16-oz. Domestic Can, $2
— 20-oz. Fountain Soda, $2
— 20-oz. Bottled Dasani Water, $2
— Hamburger/Cheeseburger, $3
— Pretzel, $3
— Frito Chili Pie, $3
— ICEE, $3
— Cheese Nachos, $3
— Large Popcorn, $3
— 16-oz. Craft Can, $4
— 16-oz. Craft Draft, $5
— 16-oz. Domestic Draft, $4
— Premium Hot Dog, $4
— Premium Hamburger/Cheeseburger $6
— Smoked Sausage/Hamburger Po’boy, $8
— Boudin Ball (3) w/ Dip, $7
— Shrimp & Grits, $8
— Vegetarian Jambalaya, $6
— Fried Mac & Cheese w/ Dip, $6
As Football Scoop’s Zach Barnett points out, you now can get three hot dogs, three 16-ounce. beers and a popcorn for $10 at a Louisiana Lafayette football game, which is probably cheaper than buying three hot dogs, three 16-ounce beers and a popcorn at the grocery store.
The Falcons introduced uncommonly cheap prices on certain concession items when Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened for the 2017 NFL season and announced in March that they would be cutting prices on five popular items by 11 percent for 2019: Hot dogs will cost $1.50, the specialty “ATL Bud Burger” will cost $7.50, and a waffle ice cream cone will cost $4.50. The price drops seem to have worked: An executive with the parent company that controls the sports holdings of Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in March that, despite slimmer profit margins, sales volume increased by 50 percent after the price cuts and that 10 percent of fans arrived an hour or earlier before kickoff of Falcons games, which led to a jump in pregame food sales and merchandise sales.
Other college programs have followed suit. The University of Texas, which has seen average attendance fall from a program high of 101,175 in 2009 to 92,778 in 2017 and 97,713 last season, announced price drops for football games at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on items such as popcorn (from $4.50 to $3), fountain sodas (from $5 to $3) and hot dogs (from $5 to $4).
But the money needed for one hot dog at Texas will get you two in Lafayette, plus a beer to wash them down.