School Spirit in Trouble? A Look at Visual Data


(source: The Wall Street Journal)

In an article written by Ben Cohen for the Wall Street Journal, growing concern about school spirit due to students’ absence from home football games explains increased ticket prices. Experiencing a football game is not only a unifying experience for students and alumni alike, but it also increases the intimidation factor for visiting teams, allowing the home team to keep its “at home advantage” (Cohen, WSJ).

Luring students into the stadium on game day is a trick that athletic officials are trying to master. With several other distractions in today’s day and age — like the affordance of being able to watch the game on TV — students do not feel as inclined to attend their school’s match as they may have been in previous years. Of course, student attendance is highly dependent on the school, as evident by the data depicted above. The University of Alabama, for example, is a large school with approximately 36,000 students. They belong to the Southeastern Conference (SEC), a large football conference for many of the universities and colleges in the south. Because of their high enrollment and forceful presence in the SEC, their student attendance at games is higher than student attendance at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), a school not as well-known for football.

Alabama Championships

A banner highlighting Alabama’s national championships.


Aside from student population, factors like who the head coach is and how the team has played in the past few years also influence student attendance at football games. The University of Michigan, for example, although not featured on this graph, had a huge loss in student ticket sales during Coach Brady Hoke’s last year at UM. The introduction of the new Coach, Jim Harbaugh, rejuvenated student sales, showing just how influential factors like the head coach can be.

Attending these games in person adds character to an undergraduate experience, but choosing whether to attend them or not clearly depends on a myriad of factors. Lives today may be more hectic than in the past, with a constant attachment to our digital technology. Athletic officials, as well as myself, however, cannot stress enough how unifying of an experience these games can be; the school spirit, coupled with solidarity heard loudly through cheering, adds a new chapter to student life on campus.


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