Team improves, but crowds drop

The Rattler football team enjoyed one it’s best seasons in years. Looking into the stands, it might be hard to tell.

Crowd attendance has decreased 11 percent at the Florida A&M University Rattlers home games since their 2007 football season, although the team has had a major turnaround on the gridiron.

That percentage is only a small look into a bigger picture. From 2007 to 2008, there has been a 44 percent decrease in crowd attendance at home and away games.

A year later, 122, 992 fans fewer and the Rattlers winning season at (9-3), there is still no single identifiable reason that explains the large decrease in crowd attendance.

Prior to Head Coach Joe Taylor, in 2007 the Rattlers attracted a total of 281,038 fans compared to 157,146 in 2008.

The 2008 team accumulated 160 more points than last year’s scoring, total before the Orlando Classic. The offensive production from the Rattlers has also surpassed the total from last year by more than 300 yards.

Overall team statistics are visual evidence that proves performance is not always a factor in the decision to attend a game.

Compared to last year, the Rattlers have gone from a losing record to a winning season.

The newfound chemistry between players has made a vast impact on the team offensively and defensively.

Accolades and accomplishments have made a lasting impression on the first season of the Taylor era.

Aside from performance, advertising may be the reason behind the decreased crowd turnout statistics. Florida State University was given $250,000, while FAMU received $150,000, from the city of Tallahassee Tourist & Development Council. The money was allocated to go towards advertising and promotion for 2008 FAMU home events.

Sports Information Director Alvin Hollins, said tickets are usually sold as soon as the football season starts.

“I assume that this season people either didn’t have the money to pay for tickets or just didn’t want to keep investing in Rattler football,” Hollins said.

In 2008, the attendance numbers only increased during games that involved other Mid Eastern Atlantic Conference teams. From 2007 to 2008 at least 5,000 less fans attended each regular season game.

The 20th annual Atlanta Classic versus Tennessee State University only generated 50,428 tickets in 2008 compared to 56, 990 in 2007.

“The gas scare in Atlanta during that weekend could possibly have been a push factor against the people who planned on attending the event,” Hollins said.

The Florida Classic game between FAMU and Bethune-Cookman University is one of the most anticipated match-ups in Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ athletics. In 2007, 65,367 fans attended the annual event in Orlando.

A week before the 2008 Florida Classic, only an estimated 35,000 tickets were sold. The crowd attendance at the Florida Classic has been an average of 65,000 people, dating back to 1997.

Both FAMU and BCU profited $1.2 million from last years Classic. Ticket sales are the determining cause that effects how much of a return both universities will collect.

This year tickets were offered at discount prices to better suit fans during such a trying economic time.

“The Florida Classic consortium knows the economy is tough and they wanted to let the fans know that they feel their pain,” said Joey Walters, the director of the Florida Classic. “The fans have been loyal to this event for years and this was a way to give back and say thanks for all their participation.”

James Harden Jr. of the Florida Citrus Sports said ticket prices changed because of a slow economy.

“People are really being hit hard, and are now starting to feel the burden of the declining economy,” Harden said. “He also realizes that the price of gas and hotels are on the rise.”

Robert Lucas, a FAMU employee in the sports information department, said the economy has played a major role in this year’s ticket sale revenue for the university.

“I remember when gas prices were $4 per gallon,” Lucas said. “Money isn’t accessible as it once was due to the current state of the economy.”