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Is the NFL’s Farm System, College Football, Losing Popularity?

Jan 1, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne (94) celebrates an interception during the third quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the 2018 Sugar Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Photo: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

By Evan Weiner |

The National Football League Draft depends on the college football industry, which serves as a farm system, or more importantly a free research and development laboratory for the 32 teams. So how is the farm system doing? 2017 was a down year as attendance at games fell three percent.

There was an average of 42,203 people who attended games for a decline of about 1,400 customers per game compared to 2016 figures. College football attendance has dropped over the past four years and is down about 10 percent over the past decade. The numbers should be sending a scare from the NFL down to the high school level as interest in football is slumping. There may be another reason too. Today’s college students aren’t as interested in the product as the college students who came before them.

On the television side, in 2017, the NFL lost viewers. The college game also saw a drop off in people in front of the TV. The NFL lost nearly 10 percent of its 2016 viewership in 2017. The 2017 college numbers were not good either. ABC saw an 18 percent slippage, CBS shed 10 percent of its viewers, ESPN lost six percent and NBC three percent.

Rupert Murdoch’s FOX over the air TV syndication did register a 23 percent gain with the addition of Big Ten Games and Murdoch’s FOX Sports One was up by four percent. The college game did get mixed news during the Bowl season.

The 2018 College Football Championship game was up nine percent with 28 and a half million viewers. Some games did well, some didn’t. The college football industry has used words such as being under siege when it comes to how people perceive the game of football. College football is trying to make a persuasive argument that football is important. But there is a concussion issue causing problems.

By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.

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  1. Shawn I agree. What other sport has this ridiculous setup where “sacrificial” lamb schools go and get blown out 69-3 by a division 1 school. It’s a joke. If CFB continues to lose football fans the NFL will follow. They (NCAA) needs to get their head out of their ass and address this issue of complete non-parity.

  2. I mentioned an issue in my article on February 14, 2017 that college football probably should address. The issue is the high number of games where a top ranked team destroys some college you have never heard of. I think this is why I keep hearing from people that “collage football is only interesting in the bowl games.” I understand that smaller colleges earn a lot of money sending their teams out to be destroyed, but that makes college football on a whole a less desirable product to watch.


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