Last year around this time, we wrote an article analyzing the attendance at Sun Devil Stadium spanning the previous 14 years and three coaching regimes. One year later, we decided to look again with an additional year of attendance, to conduct further analysis of every home game, not just the games against Power 5 opponents. What follows is an updated look at the attendance at Sun Devil Stadium.
In the fifteen years from 2001 to 2015, ASU has played 100 home games at Sun Devil Stadium in front of more than 5.6 million people; that’s more people than the total combined populations of Houston, Philadelphia and Phoenix. In those 100 games, ASU averaged 55,969 per game, which is roughly the projected capacity of the renovated Sun Devil Stadium when it is completed next year.
The table below indicates that Dennis Erickson increased average attendance 4.4% over what Dirk Koetter brought in during his tenure. To date, Todd Graham has nudged the average attendance up only 0.5% compared to that of the Erickson years. So far, the increase in wins by Graham has not translated into a proportionate increase in attendance. This would then lead to the question of why a true attendance increase has yet to materialize during Graham’s 5-year reign?
The table below breaks down the attendance by the game’s start time as either a noon time affair, an afternoon game, or one at night. Roughly two out of every three home games were at night, where ASU won over three-quarters of those games.
An interesting aspect in the table is the difference between the day games average attendance and that of the afternoon games. Those games happened later in the season. The afternoon kickoffs had a higher percentage of games in which one or both teams playing were ranked, however, the day games had the higher average attendance. Why does the fan base find the day games preferable to those in the afternoon?
The following graph compares the Sun Devil Stadium attendance on games when ASU was ranked compared to those games when ASU wasn’t ranked (ranking of the opponent was not factored). In all, ASU went into 30-percent of its home games with an AP ranking, and averaged just over 6,000 more people in attendance when the team was ranked as compared to when the team was unranked. That was an eleven-percent increase in average attendance.
As the seasons progressed, if ASU was ranked going into a game, the attendance increased each game up until the fifth home game of the year, at which time the attendance declined for the fifth and sixth home games. The seventh home game of the season was considered an outlier, since the majority of those games were against the Wildcats in the Territorial Cup. The decline in game five and six is a surprise, because it would seem that the later in the season an ASU team remained ranked, the more interest there should have been in attending the game. Why the drop off for a ranked team late in the season?
The following graph shows the average attendance for each game during the season no matter the circumstances surrounding the game. Looking at home games two through six, the average attendance was pretty much the same, especially if you remove the two Territorial Cup games that were played in the sixth game of the season those years. The first game of the year and the last game of the year were outliers, since the first game was in the heat of summer playing a cupcake team, while the last game was usually against the UofA in the Territorial Cup.
Our analysis seemed to bring up a few more questions than answers, however, a few things did emerge. One is that the average attendance over the past fifteen years is very close to the proposed capacity for the renovated Sun Devil Stadium, and has, so far, increased with the last two coaching tenures. Another is that the fan base seems to prefer a day game rather than one a few hours later in the afternoon. As could be expected, a ranked ASU team will draw more than an unranked ASU team, and in the past fifteen year to the tune of 6,000 fans per game, an eleven-percent increase. When not counting the first and last games in the season, all the other game draw a similar average attendance. That amount could be considered the core number of ASU fans willing to attend a non-marque ASU game.
One point that wasn’t mentioned above, but should be noted, is the fact that 70-percent of the home games over the past fifteen years have taken place when ASU has been an unranked team. We believe that is too many games to sustain a continually strong program, and may be a factor in why the fan base has not yet embraced Graham’s team in proportion to his wins.