2017 was the lowest attended season of Louisville Cardinal Football since the stadium expanded to 55,000 in 2010 with an average attendance of 46,159. The trend was striking because the Cards played the entire 2017 season WITH Lamar Jackson who had won the 2016 Heisman Trophy a year earlier. The 2016 season, by comparison, was the highest average stadium attendance in Cardinal Stadium History at 54,065 in the stands each game.
There are several factors that contributed to UofL’s slip in attendance in 2017.
1) UofL’s 1st home game was Week 3 of the season and the Cards were beaten badly by Clemson 47-21 and followed up that performance with 2 uninspiring opponents in Kent State & Murray State. In most years UofL’s home opener has been a weaker opponent with high caliber opponents coming later. In 2017 UofL started out big and didn’t get their ‘opener bump’ against lesser opponents.
2) Louisville Athletics overall suffered in 2017-18 with attendance down overall within the program as the FBI scandal permeated negativity throughout the fanbase.
3) Attendance is down overall throughout the country in live sporting events as a result of a better television experience and a steady increase in the cost to attend a game live.
4) The Syracuse game weather was abysmal. The forecast for gameday was terrible all week and the meteorologists were correct and fans had to take cover for a weather delay. When the game was being played it was windy and rainy throughout for a mid-November contest. The 34,265 in attendance is the lowest for a UofL Football game since the final year of the Steve Kragthorpe era.
2017’s Regression Was Interruption of Steady Growth
Louisville Football prior to 2017 had been the beneficiary of relatively sustained growth of about 4.23% per year from 1998-2016 and the 2016 season was the 3rd season ever that the Cards had at least 50,000 in attendance for each game on its schedule.
Even if the Syracuse bad weather game had been omitted (bad opponent + bad weather = bad attendance) UofL still would have raised UofL’s average attendance to just 48,538 which would have only been better than the 2011 since the stadium was expanded in 2010.
Moving forward UofL will clearly grow in attendance in 2018 for no other reason than the capacity and availability of tickets will increase by 6,000. Cardinal Stadium will now hold 61,000 when it opens vs. Indiana State and hopefully the Cards will get a benefit of the ‘opener bump’ in Game 2 of 2018 being the first in the newly expanded stadium and the second home game of the season will be against in-state Western Kentucky before hosting Florida State.