The announced crowd for Thursday’s home game at Reser Stadium against Stanford was 30,912. Clearly, there were nowhere near that many people in the stadium, which seats nearly 44,000.
The picture that accompanies this blog was shot from the pressbox toward the new east side of the stadium during the opening kickoff. I could not see how many people were sitting below me on the west side. It also should be noted that when the marching band left its section of the south end zone to perform its halftime routine that left just a few scattered folks in that section. And there was plenty of room to mosey around the Terrace in the north end zone.
I don’t have a good guess how many people were there … and in a way it doesn’t matter. The announcement crowd itself represents a disastrous symbol for the football program. OSU is averaging 34,492 fans in its five home games to date this season. As recently as 2014 it was 42,175 per game. The record is 45,509 in the 2010 season, which followed the two campaigns in which the Beavers played the Civil War game with Oregon for a shot at the Rose Bowl.
And that 30,912 crowd is the lowest since the 30,782 that showed up for the season opener of the 2,000 campaign against Eastern Washington. At that time the capacity at Reser was about 35,000.
Yes, capacity at the stadium has dropped a grand or two from its peak of more than 45,000 because of the expansion of the Valley Football Center, but think for a minute of what a reduction of 11,000 people per game means for the program – and the athletic department budget. Using a modest $25 ticket price (the average is probably higher but the model works either way) and that’s a loss of $275,000 per game in ticket revenue. Multiply that by six home game and that’s $1.65 million per season. But that’s not the end of it. Loss plummeting attendance figures also means a loss of the donor contributions which are required with many tickets, plus far fewer people shelling out for Beaver dogs and hoodies. And merchants in town lose as well.
Where will all this end? Good question. Clearly, if the Beavers fielded a competitive team – this will be their fourth consecutive campaign without a bowl bid – the fans are likely to return. But you have to do something that will give them hope. The team’s spirited efforts in the past two games are encouraging. But the low crowd counts also ratchet up the pressure on the athletic department and President Ed Ray to make a hire for the ages.
Here are some other odds and ends and free associations from Thursday night’s game:
-- Going for the jugular? OSU got the ball at its own 21 with 3:09 left in the first half leading 7-3. Three consecutive Thomas Tyner runs later the Beavers punted. Yes, in a low-scoring game every possession matters and OSU only put the ball in the end zone twice. But … this one struck me as a missed opportunity. Open it up a bit. Dare to be great. And three straight runs didn’t prevent Stanford from cutting the lead to one with a field goal with 27 seconds left in the half after and OSU fumble.
--Turnovers. The Beavers had three. Stanford had one. Ball game.
--Entering the game Stanford coach David Shaw had accumulated 19 losses in his 6.5 seasons. Departed Beaver coach Gary Andersen accumulated 23 in his 2.5 seasons.
--Perusing the Pac-12 statistics distributed before the game showed that the Beavers are last in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense, pass defense, passing efficiency, passing defense efficiency, sacks, first downs and first downs by opponents. OSU is 10th or 11th in another seven categories. Their best performance? Fifth in punting and red zone offense percentage, although it should be noted that OSU has the fewest red zone opportunities by a wide margin. The intent here is not to denigrate the lads … just show how far they have to go.
--Stanford uncorked this “privacy shed” for its trainers on the sideline. Every time someone needed work one of the staffers erected this canopy over the training table and voila! Another victory for student privacy in the face of overzealous reporters.
--Thursday’s game was played in a relatively crisp 3 hours, 18 minutes. The wacky Big 12 has produced a 3:54 monster when Oklahoma staggered past winless Baylor 49-41. Compare that to the 82-21 win by Western Oregon vs. Simon Fraser, which was played in just 3:02 despite an orgy of 14 touchdowns. What’s the difference? TV timeouts. Hard to describe the joy of watching teams not play for 2.5 minutes while the ad guys chime in. Of course it also gives me more time to tweet.