As SEC Football Continues To Change, More Home-And-Home Series Are Needed

As we’ve seen over the last decade, college football has moved away from the spirited home-and-home matchups and turned to neutral site games to drum up attention on national networks. There is a very good reason for this — money. Looking at the landscape of football, places like Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Houston and others have hosted a number of season openers. The problem with such games is fan engagement.

Having covered numerous neutral site games over the years, I have always felt they would be better off being played in home stadiums. I know a lot of fans who  say there is no better feeling than going into an opposing stadium and getting a win, while celebrating with the group of fans who made the trip. Take Pittsburgh for instance. They played Tennessee last weekend and brought over 5,000 fans to Knoxville. The downtown bars were packed with Pitt fans singing their fight song and occasionally breaking out in a “Penn State Sucks” chant. How about Oregon fans making the trip to Columbus last weekend and getting to celebrate the win? They must be thankful all that money they spent paid off.

Likewise, Auburn fans will travel to Happy Valley this weekend to witness for themselves what a night game looks like in the Big Ten, a “Whiteout” night game, no less. Heck, I am jealous I won’t be attending that game, just from a pure college football fan perspective. Can you imagine what it will feel like for those Tiger fans who make the trip, knowing they’ll definitely stand out with their orange shirts in a 100,000 plus stadium, while everyone else is dressed in white?

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

James Franklin had this to say about ticket demand for this game:

“We’re fortunate here, having a 107,000-seat stadium, our student section is bigger than most. Our allotment of recruiting tickets is bigger than most, so that helps for games like this because you hate to turn people away. But this is a game where we typically have to turn recruits away. This is a game where we typically have to turn high school coaches away just because the demand far outweighs the supply.”

Franklin added, “I’ve got a ton of respect for Auburn. I’ve got a ton of respect for the SEC. I want these fans and the staff and these coaches to go back to the SEC and say, ‘You know, we love our football in the SEC, but you know, what they do up there at Penn State is special and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like it.'”

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA – OCTOBER 12: LSU Tiger fans during the game against the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images)

Did you see how many LSU fans made the trip out to the West Coast for the season opener against UCLA? Well, they sold their allotment out, and then some.

It’s easy to look at these games and hope that the players take as much out of it as the fans. But, sometimes that isn’t the case. Look at what happened at the Ole Miss opener against Louisville in Atlanta in front of perhaps 20,000 fans. It was embarrassing to see ESPN try to avoid crowd shots. But they got their money, so everything is good, right?

There are some games that deserve to be played on a neutral site, like Oklahoma vs Texas, or even the Arkansas vs Texas A&M game. These rivalries don’t need added promotion, as they sell themselves. But in a day and time where it feels like we open every season with 15 different games playing outside of college campuses, maybe we should reconsider the home field atmosphere and how that would look on television.

We are starting to see a trend in which teams reward their fans who attend by not taking away a home game from the schedule. The SEC has done an ok job of setting up these home-and-home deals, but it’s still not good enough. There needs to be more focus on attracting these types of mega-fight games on campuses and not regional cities.

Even though the conference landscape is changing and new alliances are forming, there are still plenty of premier games for fans, especially ones that aren’t played in neutral territory.

Just give the fans what they want.

Written by Trey Wallace

Wallace started covering the SEC in 2012, as the conference landscape was beginning to change. Prior to his time in Knoxville, Wallace worked in Nashville for The Read Optional, where he first produced content that garnered national attention. His passion for sports is evident in his work and has led him to break some of college football’s biggest stories. His social media reach and natural podcast proficiency continue to make Wallace one of SEC’s most trusted sources.

One Comment

Leave a Reply
  1. Agree 100% Neutral site games are rarely worth it. I’m an OU fan and love to travel to different venues (college football home stadiums) and see the campus and the stadium etc. Neutral site games are void of most all of that. OU is looking forward to hosting their new SEC brothers and I know we are excited to go see bigger meaningful games in theirs as well. I dont want to go to Atlanta or New Orleans no more than SEC fans want to go to Jerry World either. NFL stadiums are cool in the parking lot but nothing beats a good Saturday in a college town.

Leave a Reply