Northwestern football coach blames phones for declining attendance at games, says fans would rather have '12 TVs in their TV-watching cave than go to a game'

Pat Fitzgerald Northwestern

@RickTarsitano / Twitter

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

  • Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald ranted against smartphones when asked about declining attendance at college football games.
  • "They'd rather have 12 TVs set up in their TV-watching cave than go to a game and experience the pageantry and the tailgating," Fitzgerald told reporters.
  • Fans were split on their reception of Fitzgerald's comments, with some agreeing with the coach and others blaming expensive tickets and a poor in-person experience for the decline.
  • Northwestern saw an uptick in attendance last year, during a season in which the Wildcats made the Big Ten title for the first time in school history.
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Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald believes he knows the reason attendance at college football games has been declining in recent years: smartphones.

Speaking with reporters during Big Ten media days, Fitzgerald was asked about why he thought fewer fans were showing up on game days, teeing him up for rant that seemed to come to mind with ease.

"I think phones, I think technology has been the decline in attendance, No. 1," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald went on to lament the rise of technology he saw, criticizing young people's tendency to hold up their phones at concerts.

"You watch a concert, and everyone is holding their phone up. Listen! Watch! Take it in! Create a memory!" Fitzgerald said, asking people to live more in the moment.

"Cause they don't go back and watch the videos, they just want to post it on their social media," Fitzgerald said. "Which is pathetic because it creates a society of 'Look at me, isn't my life great?' Even though when they go home, they're like, 'I hate myself, I hate my life, everything's wrong.'"

He continued:

"They'd rather have 12 TVs set up in their TV-watching cave than go to a game and experience the pageantry and the tailgating. I think it's definitely things we need to look at as a brand, college football, on how we can create that type of environment and experience while respecting our communities and our neighborhoods to make sure the experiences that are happening don't impede on those neighborhoods."

You can watch Fitzgerald's rant in full below.

On Twitter, fans were split on how to receive Fitzgerald's commentary on kids these days.

Some were quick to agree with the Northwestern coach.


Others were much more skeptic, citing the high costs of tickets and the quality of the in-person experience of seeing a football game as reasons for the decline.


Northwestern's attendance was solid last year, selling out more than 47,000 fans at four of their seven home games in 2018 after a 2017 that saw attendance max out at just over 41,000 - an improvement that was likely driven in part due to the Wildcats great season that ended with the team making its first appearance in the Big Ten title game since its inception in 2011.

If Fitzgerald wants to make sure the stadium is filled throughout the year, chances are continuing the program's successes of the past few years is a good place to start.

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