By admin | June 10, 2010
By Richard Allen
Rumors and even factual reports are all over the place regarding the fate of several college sports conferences. This team is going here while that team is going there. The Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10 and possibly the SEC and ACC may all be impacted in one way or another by changes that appear to be imminent.
Every team considering a move sees nothing but greener pastures on the other side. Higher television revenues, better areas from which to recruit and more exposure for their programs are all serving as lures for the perspective movers.
One thing to be considered for all involved should be the example set by NASCAR a few years ago and the results of the moves that organization made.
Right now, college football and basketball programs appear to be of the mindset that they have a product everyone loves. Their product has become so much a part of the lives of their followers that nothing could happen to break that bond.
In other words, major college teams seem to believe that if they simply throw the product out there they have a core group of fans that will be there to lap it up no matter what. So, there is no reason not to go after even bigger audiences in those greener pastures.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s NASCAR had a core group of fans that appeared to be so addicted to the product the racing organization offered that nothing could ever cause them to turn away. With that core group solidly in place, NASCAR abandoned what it referred to as oversaturated markets and headed for places where they believed the sport could be grown.
Tracks in North Wilkesboro, Rockingham and Darlington had hosted races for decades. Those communities relied on the economic boost provided by the two yearly visits from loyal race fans. However, NASCAR decided to go in another direction and dates were taken from those facilities while glitzier locales such as Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago eventually made their way onto the Sprint Cup schedule.
With a core that would never leave and a sudden presence in new, more populated areas NASCAR could not possibly lose, right?
Well, that has not been the case. While the new locales looked to show promise at first, those tracks now often have to resort to ticket giveaways just to make it look like anyone at all is there. And more, many in that core group that would never leave have left.
Virtually every weekend, NASCAR plays before grandstands with vast open spaces. And that is not just at those newly added tracks. Fans at remaining traditional venues such as Charlotte and Talladega have returned in fewer and fewer numbers with each passing year.
Television ratings have been on the decline for the better part of the last decade. The greener pastures have turned brown for NASCAR.
College Athletic Directors and Presidents will probably not even remotely consider what has happened in NASCAR when deciding to move their school to a new conference, but they should.
Don’t think that just because fans fill the stadiums to watch their school play against a rival they have contested for 50 or even 100 years that those fans will show up in the same numbers when newer but less known teams arrive. Yes, there will be the typical curiosity when the product is new. But who will be there when the new wears off?
NASCAR did not take enough time to consider that.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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