Georgia Tech attendance down significantly

Georgia Tech's game against Boston College on Nov. 13, 2021 drew 31,511 fans to Bobby Dodd Stadium, the smallest home attendance for a game since 1989. (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

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Georgia Tech's game against Boston College on Nov. 13, 2021 drew 31,511 fans to Bobby Dodd Stadium, the smallest home attendance for a game since 1989. (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

Georgia Tech’s losing at Bobby Dodd Stadium has not been confined to the field. Tech’s season attendance is tracking to be its lowest in more than 30 years.

It’s unclear how much of it is related to fan disappointment with the team and coach Geoff Collins, although that certainly hasn’t helped. It is, however, a dip that the athletic department had budgeted for, not knowing how fans would think and feel about returning to games with the potential risk for contracting COVID-19. And, even with the decline, the athletic department was ahead of the budgeted goals as of late October.

“We made a decision that we were going to basically plan like things were going to be back to normal as far as how we were going to sell tickets and messaging and all those kinds of things,” Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury told the AJC. “But from a budget standpoint, we wanted to make sure that we were somewhat conservative, really having no idea what was going to happen.”

The announced attendance for the Yellow Jackets’ Saturday home loss to Boston College - 31,511 - was the lowest for a Tech home game since a November 1989 game against Boston College. Average attendance for the team’s six home dates this season (including the game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against North Carolina) is 34,956.

Stansbury did say that single-game ticket sales have been above projections. Stansbury said that he didn’t think that the drop represents fan confidence in the team or Collins.

“We’re not necessarily hearing that,” Stansbury said, “and when we went into season-ticket sales last January, that definitely was not one of the topics that our ticket-relations folks were hearing.”

Assuming the final game against Georgia is a sellout at 55,000 (as is routinely the case), the season average will be 37,819. The last time Tech’s season average was that low was 1989, when it was 34,352. However, capacity for the stadium at that point was 43,719.

An average home attendance of 37,819 will constitute 69% of capacity, a drop in 12 percentage points from the 2019 season average (44,599) by percentage of capacity. Tech is not the only ACC team to be suffering a significant attendance drop from 2019 figures.

Louisville (25 percentage points), Duke (24) and Syracuse (18) have seen their home attendance take even larger dives than Georgia Tech. The three schools and Tech fit in a pattern of teams that had losing seasons in 2020 and have not captivated fans with their play this season.

And while Tech was wise to plan for a potential drop in attendance, that wasn’t the only possible outcome. While six ACC schools have seen their attendance fall by at least 10 percentage points of capacity from 2019 numbers, the other eight have been more stable.

In fact, four – Boston College, Florida State, Pitt and Wake Forest – have seen their attendance averages improve upon 2019 numbers, evidence that attendance can be improved even in this climate. Boston College and Pitt started the season strong and have built on encouraging 2020 seasons. Wake Forest has far surpassed expectations. Florida State has begun to recover from a drop likely associated with the tenure of former coach Willie Taggart.