Can the NFL Survive in Los Angeles?

LOS ANGELES CA - FEBRUARY 01: Tim Leiweke President and CEO of AEG holds a football after he announced naming rights for the new football stadium Farmers Field at Los Angeles Convention Center on February 1 2011 in Los Angeles California. AEG has reportedly sold the naming rights for the proposed stadium to Farmers Insurance Exchange for $650,000 calling the stadium "Farmers Field." (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Yesterday, the following comment to Jeff's post about a Los Angeles stadium was brought to my attention:

I was a UCLA reject and went to UCSD, so I am familiar with both areas. The NFL will fail for the third time in L.A., no one cares about pro football. The Lakers are the kings of the sport scene here and are loved by the entertainment industry. We already have two big college teams and the NFL brings nothing to the table. I went to some Chargers games and they seem to attract the trash of SD. The Lakers cater to the Hollywood set. The Clippers are my team since I am a regular person.

No one wants the Chargers, if they do move here they will eventually wind up back in San Diego. SD is not L.A. there is way more to do and see up here, you guys are really flattering yourselves if you think we want the Chargers.

Besides the obvious annoyance I'm sure is shared by most of you, the sentence that I bolded piqued my interest. With both the Rose Bowl and the L.A. Coliseum within a 20 minute drive of where a downtown stadium would go, I began to wonder if this gentleman's statement brought to light a real issue with the NFL in Los Angeles. Can a city support both a college football program (much less two) and also an NFL franchise?

Now, what I'm talking about here is attendance. Will an area that fills up two sets of 90,000+ seats on Saturday also be able to fill 60,000+ seats on Sunday? Let's run through the ten biggest stadiums in college football and see how close they are to the nearest NFL franchise (in driving time)...

 

1. Michigan Stadium (about 1 hour from Detroit Lions)
2. Beaver Stadium (about 2.5 hours from Pittsburgh Steelers)
3. Ohio Stadium (2 hours from Cincinnati Bengals, 2.5 hours from Cleveland Browns)
4. Neyland Stadium (3 hours from Tennessee Titans)
5. Bryant-Denny Stadium (3.5 hours from Atlanta Falcons)
6. Darrell K. Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium (3 hours from Houston Texans)
7. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (2 hours from San Diego Chargers)
8. Sanford Stadium (1.5 hours from Atlanta Falcons)
9. Rose Bowl (2.5 hours from San Diego Chargers)
10. Tiger Stadium (1.5 hours from New Orleans Saints)

 

This is something I've thought about many times before. I remember sitting in Philadelphia thinking "Would Temple really fill up the Linc with a good football team?" I couldn't imagine that place getting 70,000 people two days in a row. I wondered why most major cities around the country didn't have a major football program in town or on the outskirts, but maybe the issue is (and maybe part of the reason the NFL has waited so long to come back to LA) simply that a major college football program (or two) and NFL team cannot both be successful in each other's backyards.

There's a few exceptions to the rule, I suppose. The 49ers and Raiders do okay on attendance (not great), with good Stanford and Cal college football programs nearby. The Michigan State Spartans do fine and I believe they're close to Detroit. However, one of the key differences is that those college football stadiums are smaller. We're not just talking about the NFL competing with one of the top 10 biggest college football stadiums, we're talking about the NFL competing with two of the top 10 biggest college football stadiums. And if recent talk is to believed, they want to compete with those two college football stadiums with two NFL teams to ensure that there's football in L.A. on every Sunday during the regular season.

Does this seem like something important that everyone has just been glossing over?

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