I plan to write another From the Student Section diary for tomorrow's game, so if there are any aspects of the student experience people want some commentary on, I'd love to hear about them so I can keep eyes/ears open at the game.
As a reward for feedback/ideas, here's a dancing Kermit:
[Note: Sorry for the week delay on this, reaching 100 points takes some time apparently…]
I’ll be trying to provide these write-ups as often as I can for home games. If you are familiar with the recent changes in student season ticket seating, skip to the next paragraph. For those who missed all the drama last season (and who could blame you), the athletic department decided inexplicably that none of the following contributed to the inability of students to show up to games on time:
- Crappy scheduling,
- Crappy timing,
- Poor performance,
- Rising prices,
- Things being expensive in the stadium and thus eating before arriving, and
- An athletic department that just seems to not give even a Norfleet-sized care about the student experience.
Instead they figured that students were not sufficiently motivated and that they wanted better cell service in the stadium. They thus switched to general admission, which I took as a semester long course in game theory. Things went about as expected with the stadium empty at kickoff against Akron and there being a footrace where it’s a small miracle no one was injured for UTLII. Enter Michael Proppe and the student government who turned a year of haranguing the misguided policy of the athletic department into a seating policy change that actually makes sense.
Well I’d say so (disclaimer on the opener), but I’m biased just slightly by my location.
It is worth noting (per the play-by-play offered by @mikeproppe) that at MSU’s opener, their student section looked significantly emptier at kick off. This is likely both that it was in fact emptier, and that with equal attendance percentages (<100%) GA will always look emptier.
With the new seating policy here is a list of things that I did not do for the opener:
- Wake up at 7am for a middling opponent.
- Wake up more than 12 hours before kickoff (Ok that was for the ND game but still).
- Get sunburned before kickoff.
- Roast hotdogs over a makeshift grill made of a can of sterno.
- Light said grill on fire.
- Have to donate my tailgating supplies to actual tailgaters.
- Be uncharacteristically tired by halftime.
- Spend 15 minutes furiously arguing with fellow fans about their behavior during a veritable stampede (Again the ND game)
- End up sitting in the wrong section without recourse because queues are hard, man.
- End up next to an obnoxious opposing fan, just because she was willing to show up early (seriously whoever you were from Nebraska, the Ohio guy was more tolerable. Significantly)
And the list of things I did do for the opener:
- Go to a pre-game brunch
- Watch about half of the PSU/UCF game before trekking over to the stadium
- Show up in time for warm-ups
- Enjoy game, being loud and energized
- Leave game with enough energy (and soul) left to want to watch all of the interesting matchups still on TV
During the Game
The student section seemed much more in order throughout the game. People seemed more cordial with each other (probably a combination of not having our souls sucked out of us through a straw, and the fact that we weren’t competing with each other for seats). People seemed louder and more engaged. And the wave was executed significantly better (it wasn’t the slowed, split wave from a few years back but hey, progress). Hell, some students near me even lifted the one App State fan for ASU's second touchdown because he was pretty drunk and they felt bad.
I won’t go too in-depth on my take on on-the-field analysis, as it seems that that has been handled pretty thoroughly, but my one hot take comes from the ASU drive early on where they faced a 3rd and 25. I could feel the anticipation welling up. The sense beaten into me by the last 6 years that this was the moment we’d get gashed. They’d find the seam, get a guy wide open 30 yards out and it’d be off to the races. Instead we shut it down handily. I was floored. Even against an overmatched, undersized opponent I had gotten used to the secondary getting torched like that, time and time again. So maybe this year has something different in store. We’ll find out tonight.
Yes, Yes, but about the cell service
While I wasn’t actively paying attention to the cell coverage/wifi. I will say it is significantly better. Was it the deciding missing piece in the fan experience? Absolutely not. It did help with the following game related activities:
- Checking in on H.A.I.L.: I could do it, progress made.
- Getting “WE SAW YOU ON TV #rowA” texts: phone lit up like a Christmas tree a few times. Not complaining
- Checking other scores during TV timeouts…well actually the new score board design is much improved and the ticker of the scores was a nice touch, so that wasn’t actually that important.
- Coordinating post-game meet-up plans with out of town relatives: Possible.
Deal maker/breaker? No. But it was just that a nice touch that, assuming we address the actual problems, will eventually help improve the fan experience.
So is it better?
Honestly, it’s hard to say. I appreciate the superfan/seniority based seating. I appreciate it a lot. But in the long list of ways the AD is finding to make things more difficult and less enjoyable for fans (especially student fans), I’m just not sure how big of an impact this change will have. With the schedule still being what it is, and prices still being what they are, and games taking more and more time. I just don’t know. I’ll be curious to see how this holds up when the semester gets going, people need to be studying more, the weather gets colder, etc. The one thing I want to seriously point out though, is that the student section is approximately 60% of what it is last year. While I fully expect things to bounce back with a better schedule next year, that type of drop-off, regardless of schedule, is inexcusable. Yes non-students pay more for their tickets, yes they make up 75% of the attendees, yes they’ve been doing this a lot longer, etc. But the fan experience is significantly improved by having a loud and energetic and engaged student section (and a large one at that). It seems like we have a seating policy that motivates students to show up on time. Now let’s work on pricing and scheduling that get them to show up at all.
Surprised this went unposted, but Darren Rovell wrote a piece on ESPN.com today highlighting the trend of poor student turnout in college football. Elements of the article have certainly been touched on in the past around these parts, but attendence (students in particular) is a looming problem, especially with next years yawn-inducing home slate.
The Michigan-specific part:
This year, the University of Michigan drew the most fans of any school for the 16th year in a row. But 26 percent of students who paid for their tickets didn't show up at an average home game this season. That's an increase from 25 percent last year and 21 percent in 2011.
Not only did Michigan have more no-shows, they also only sold 19,850 student season tickets, about a 10 percent drop from the year before. Michigan added a $7.50 fee to each ticket this season to support student programs and also took away senior reserved seating in favor of a general admission policy which contributed to fewer people buying tickets.
Hoping to slow the slide, Michigan sent out a questionnaire to students at season's end, asking them why they might not have been happy with the stadium experience.
Adam Stillman, a senior at Michigan who attended all but one of the team's home games this year, shared his answers with ESPN.com. How he prioritized his answers might scare administrators, many of whom have looked to Wi-Fi connectivity as the answer to attracting younger fans. Stillman ranked sitting with friends, sitting close to the field, the outcome of the game, tailgating, the student section atmosphere, food specials and entertainment before the importance of Wi-Fi.
"I've kind of accepted that I'm not getting reception in and around Michigan Stadium," Stillman said. "The problem is in all the other areas. There's nothing to do while I'm waiting on line for an hour to get into the stadium, and there's little added value from being in the stands watching the game.
As the business of college football grew, many schools began moving student sections into some of the worst seats in order to make boosters happy in prime seats. But as student crowds at some schools started to fade, athletic department officials at those schools began to understand that if they didn't get the students in the building while they were at school, they might not get their money in the future."
Success, or lack thereof, on the field obviously plays an important role. For years, Iowa's student section capacity was steady at 10,400 students per game. But this year after going 19-19 in games from 2010-2012, the school only sold 7,500 tickets and an average of 30 percent of those students didn't show up for the games. In the middle of the season, Iowa closed off two sections of the stadium previously occupied by students and began selling those tickets to the general public. Only half the student tickets purchased for the game against Michigan, which happened during the school's Thanksgiving break, were used.
Missing one out of every fifth student who bought a ticket has become pretty common these days. Michigan State has sold out its 13,500 student tickets since 2007, but the school says its no-show rate for home games this year still was about 20 percent. That's for a season in which the Spartans went 13-1, won the Big Ten title and ended the season with a victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
Penn State's overall attendance has been on a five-year decline that represents a total drop of almost 10 percent. The students are actually seen as a bright spot, as the school sold almost 1,000 more full season tickets this year (21,368). An 18.1 percent student no-show rate is actually among the best in the Big Ten.
"While game time, opponent, promotion and record all had some effect, weather had the most direct effect on our student crowd," said Jeff Garner, Penn State's assistant athletic director for ticketing sales and service.For Penn State, that means cold, wind, rain and snow.
Footnotes to an amazing game...
- I'm not one to shit on the student section, but it was a pathetic sight at kickoff and took awhile to fill out. I don't know if it's total apathy, broke students selling tickets instead of attending a presumed massacre, logistical failings, or some combination, but that was an embarrassment and I hope they didn't show it on TV. I know I'm re-hashing an old debate but where does the AD go from here with student ticket policy?
EDIT: The section I was referring to is not even the student section. General admission failures and fan disinterest is disappointing, but old news.
- We kept the piped-in music running well into the OSU playclock on multiple occasions. I believe ND drew some ire for pulling a similar tactic on us recently. I have mixed feelings; the "Michigan Man" in me felt like it was dubious at best, but I don't mind a little gamesmanship. What did bother me was the use of "Hell's Bells" on not only second down but at one point first (albeit in the red zone). At UTL the wild atmosphere worked, but Saturday was the first time I wanted the piped-in stuff off my lawn, even if it did seem to encourage crowd participation in general.
As for the game itself, I'm proud of the kids and will leave it at that. I don't comment or post much, but these were two topics that haven't received much mention (obligatory SIAP) on account of the ridiculously entertaining, head-shaking, MGoWedgeIssue of a football game that took place. Seemed like the right time to ask what people thought.
Yesterday, the student section tried to start the wave during the third quarter when we were up 14 points with plenty of time left in the third quarter.
Notre Dame had the ball. While some students half heartedly attempted the wave, ND scored to cut the lead to 7. At the time I thought "ok, some freshmen or sophomores got down low and didn't know better." Embarassing, but at least the rest of the students knew to focus on the game and get loud for the defense.
Then the unthinkable happened. Immediately after the score, the student section kept trying to start a wave. We were up just 7 against a rival in the third quarter. This time, the entire section was participating in the act of sacriledge. Of course, the recent alums and non-students were having none of it.
Now, I'm not a crotchedy old alum, rather I'm a mid-20's, always yelling, "up in back" recent alum. I love the Michigan Stadium version of the Wave. There's none better. However, even though it is great and amazing, it's true beauty is a result of doing it properly and at the correct time. Doing it incorrectly and at improper times will lead to a substandard wave. This is serious business. During the RichRod years, blowouts were few and far in between and the Wave's standards dipped. Now that we are basking in the glory that is the Hoke era, let's bring the Wave's standard's back to where they belong.
Here's your MGoPSA. Wave Guidelines:
- The wave is only to start late in the third quarter or in the fourth quarter.
- The game must be "in hand." This means that even with a miracle, the outcome is not in doubt and we are the team that will be coming out on top. A safe number for this is a 21-point lead. However, depending on the amount of time left, this could be as low as a 17-point lead.
- ONLY when requirements (1) and (2) are met is it acceptable to start the Wave.
- The Wave's order is as follows:
- Regular speed
- Regular speed (second round of regular speed recommended if first cycle was weak)
- Slow wave
- Fast wave
- Reverse wave
- Split wave
- Split wave until it dies
Thus concludes your MGoPSA. Let the debate commence (though, I think I have everything correct).