How much do college football fans really care about recruiting?
The answer is supposed to be "a freaking ton," but the evidence at Clemson suggests it's still a much bigger deal for a team's diehards than their rank-and-file supporters. Dabo Swinney's Tigers pulled in one of the nation's best and most surprising classes this past Signing Day, but per the Charleston Post and Courier that excitement has yet to transfer to the box office:
Football season ticket sales are down six percent from this point last year at Clemson, according to associate athletic director Katie Hill.A point for the "economy" argument over the "losing season" argument, the Post and Courier notes, is that Virginia Tech has seen a similar decline this offseason despite having won the ACC championship last season.
The decline is traced to a number of factors including effects from the recession, the slow economic recovery and perhaps fans' dissatisfaction following the program's first losing season in 12 years.
Of the season tickets Clemson has already sold, Hill estimates the number is down 10-15 percent from 2007-08 levels.
"I still think the economy has got us," Hill said. "It's probably a variety of things, depending on the ticket buyer. … It can be dissatisfaction, it can be any of those reasons.
"But it's not over."
But unlike the Tigers, the Hokies are losing several stars from that title team and had their usual good-but-not-eye-popping recruiting class. And the economy has done little to dent ticket sales at Clemson's rivals in the SEC. Down the road in Athens, for instance, it's been years since season tickets failed to sell out, and a smattering of single-game tickets for the Bulldogs' season opener against Boise State sold out quickly despite Georgia's disastrous 6-7 finish a year ago.
In short, no, the economy isn't helping. But we have to think that after 2010's 6-7 debacle, the bigger problem is an understandable lack of faith from Tiger fans in the direction of Swinney's program--faith that may take more than one excellent recruiting class to restore.