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Why Florida State football attendance dropped in 2015

A confluence of factors contributed to Florida State's attendance drop in 2015.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

CBS Sports produced its annual report on college football attendance, and Florida State had one of the largest drops y/y of the major schools, down 11 percent at 73,219. Doak Campbell Stadium holds 82,300, and is undergoing renovations which will make seating more luxurious, though decreasing capacity.

There are several obvious reasons for the drop, and some not so obvious.

The first is that in order to have a drop of 11 percent without some catastrophic program change, the starting point has to be very high and perhaps inflated. And that was the case in 2013 and especially 2014, as the Seminoles went 27-1 and Jameis Winston and Co. were must-see attractions in person. Even casual fans were smart enough to realize there would be a big dropoff after sending a record number of pro players to the NFL draft in just three years. While FSU didn't lose a home game, the quality of play did decrease, and FSU was quickly eliminated from playoff contention. The die-hards still came, but in order to fill a stadium of FSU's size, the bandwagon fans also also need to be in the seats.

The schedule didn't help, either. Louisville projected as a good team and Florida State had a great game against the Cardinals in 2014, but had a horrible start to 2015 at 2-3 and ended up not being a draw. Louisville was actually a solid team, and rebounded to make a bowl, but at the time the game was not very attractive. Miami started 3-0 but a loss to Cincinnati the week before the trip to Tallahassee removed some of the luster of the matchup, though the crowd was decent. USF ended up a very solid team, but fans didn't know that in Week 2 following a poor 2014 for the Bulls. Syracuse was so bad it fired its head coach after just three seasons, and Texas State and Tennessee Chattanooga were never going to be draws.

While the schedule was perfect for a rebuilding Florida State team to face, and resulted in the Seminoles losing just two games and making a New Years Six bowl, it wasn't going to be a monster for the casual fan and the circumstance surrounding some of the teams further diminished their attraction.

The time of the games also played a major factor. FSU only had two night games, exceeding 80,000 attendance in each game. But games at 11:30, noon and 3:00 did not help matters for fans who did not want to sit through hot, muggy weather early in the season, wait out rain delays, and stay an extra night.

The last part is important. Of the schools with a stadium seating 75,000 or more, Florida State has by far the smallest surrounding population. That means fewer locals who can make a day trip than other schools. There is nothing like Alabama has with Birmingham being an hour away, or Florida has with Jacksonville, Tampa and Orlando all being two hours or less. For a family living in Tampa, easily four hours away, noon games just cannot be managed without going up the night before if there is any hope of tailgating. That means added hotel costs if lucky enough to find one without a two-night minimum, or having to stay with friends for an additional night. Day games are bad for attendance for a school as geographically isolated as FSU.

Combine all those factors, and that many traveled in 2013-14 more often than they normally would, and it's understandable that the attendance would drop from the unsustainable levels. It's also a good example of why reducing stadium capacity and increasing the quality of seating options makes sense.