To admit that a team you love isn't very good anymore.
Winning and Attendance @ Michigan Stadium
Here is a quick little diary in response to John U Bacon's article today and much of the commentary on his site and this one. I don’t agree with Bacon’s broadside on Brandon mostly because it is not needed to explain poor ticket sales. Do people come to games when the team doesn’t win? No they don’t for the most part. At least that is what I take to be common sense. Reading Bacon’s article and the comments on it…most people are thinking there is more than winning and losing driving attendance at Michigan and some would expand this to CFB in general. This diary is a first step in understanding the relationship between winning and getting people to show up on game day.
I have taken the attendance stats, data and pictures below from Bentley’s web article on Michigan stadium ,additional data from CFBstats for recent years and other data from the Michigan Stadium wiki site.
The attendance data at Michigan stadium is reported out back to the inaugural year of 1927. I don’t see a downloadable, consistent or comparable dataset from the Fairgrounds, Regents or Ferry field, but there are several mentions of sold out games and ticket lotteries in the Ferry field days of 1906-1926.
I take the building of Michigan stadium to be a statement of near capacity seating in Ferry Field at least. In reading through the history of Regents Field in the period of 1893-1905 (again from the Bentley site) it would seen the final games there were also near or over sold. Capacity at Regents was apparently 15,000 in 1905.
Ferry Field finished with a capacity of 45,000 which makes this Wisconsin game in 1924 oversold as well.
I wish I had the data on these two fields but I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume near capacity seating for some of the games and seasons especially in the later years.
Once Michigan stadium gets built however capacity seating is not the rule until the 1970’s. That’s forty plus years of data showing wins vs. attendance. Here is that data broken out %Capacity vs. the Win% (taken straight up and in rolling 3, 5 and 10 year windows.) The W/L data is bolded pre Michigan Stadium (1883-1926).
Using Percent Seating Capacity for attendance is misleading as the capacity of the Michigan stadium is increasing over this period. The % capacity however is just the record that is at issue with this season’s ticket sales and I would imagine the AD’s marketing plan. Here is the build out in seating capacity over the course of the stadium’s history.
Michigan Stadium Capacity
What is of interest hear is the correlation of Ws to the attendance. Initially this was fairly noisy but when I took the rolling 10yr Winning % the correlation smoothed out.
Despite a supposed excellent Ufer enthused and storied cheap game day experience throughout the post Tom Harmon days, and even before in the brand new stadium – when wins were down long term (in a ten year window at least) sales suffered. It looks to me like common sense prevails here. W and Ls are sufficient to explain attendance.
There were a couple comments that the Michigan situation mirrors that of other programs and CFB in general. I pulled that data as well but I’m not going to look at it here – if ever. I strongly feel like the Michigan experience is different than other programs like Alabama, Texas and even Ohio State in history and the present day. All that said there are common trends affecting us all.
The growing cost of an undergraduate education is frightening and somewhat disheartening to me as the parent of a newly teenage child. I don’t blame students for staying away from a game day experience when the stakes are higher than ever to succeed in class and in life. When the team comes back above the ten year mean in wins or even sooner – I think they will find a way to sit with their friends or some other Wolverine will find their way to the now barren end zone.
My apologies for data misconstrued or otherwise. It’s a diary… not a white paper.
Or the gameday experience that you loved being cheapened like a minor league baseball game...I gave up my tickets for two reasons: (1) the piss poor gameday experience and (2) priced out. None of the reasons have to do with wins.
I've renewed my tickets again this year, but had to think about it. The game day experience changes have really not bothered me as society, technology and arms races have driven some changes. And I don't mind the upgraded facilities. But like you, pricing is getting to be an issue for me with 2 kids in college. My buddy gave up his seats and is going the StubHub route. Of course winning more games will ease some pain, but the jury is still out for me for next years renewal.
Illinois football game 1932 - Michigan was undefeated that year...
This was true for most of the golden Kipke years. If the wallet is tight or times are hard - football is not where it's at.
1944 also is an outlier (WWII) as are the recent sold out years despite the fall off in on field performance.
Please let me know which restroom you're using and I will walk around the stadium to use it. "The Trough" may not have been as pretty, but it was much more efficient than what they have now. If you have to go during the game now, plan on missing a quarter.
Excellent diary. Some of the commentary about Dave Brandon make 19th century melodramas with evil characters twirling the ends of their pencil-thin moustaches seem nuanced and sophisticated by comparison.
Thanks for putting this together. W/L records definitely correlate with attendance, even at iconic-experience stadiums like Michigan's. For example, people here in Chicago are finally getting called up after 8 years on the waiting list for season ticket to Wrigley, and many of them are turning the opportunity down because the Cubs have just been that bad. And there's no Dave Brandon in sight; not even one to pilot a flyover "Go Blue" in a plane fueled by the tears of the 99%.
Then again, the Cubs have been loveable losers for a long long time. The existence of a waiting list at all is a testament to just how much resistance the iconic experience of a day at Wrigley can provide against the ebb and flow of bandwagon attendance. Ultimately, the choice to spend a day at Wrigley or Michigan really is more complex than just the perceived odds of victory on a given day or through a given season (see, e.g., attendance through the RR apocalypse). It's also more complex that just being able to sit where you like with your friends. And more complex than a desire to maintain tradition. Or concerns over ticket or refreshment costs. Or access to alcohol. Or WIFI.
All these things matter. And they matter differently, in different degrees, for each individual decision maker. Winning does matter. But the changes rolled out by DB matter too.
Brandon is doing for the most part what most other D1 ADs are trying to do as well or have already done (except for the sky writing clusterbomb - what is he thinking.) I also think he will eventually get it right with students and pricing. In fact these new deals are looking better and better to me.
DB is not in the get it wrong business... at least not for long.
and thanks for turning me on to the Bentley web site.
I concur with bluelaw, the Cubs are the only team I can think of where wins and losses, historically, had little impact on attendance.
I was a 70s kid, earned my degree in 91, and never experienced a less-than capacity Michigan Stadium. I really don't think I would like to, to be honest with you.
and your graphs and charts are top-notch too.
But while there's no doubt in my mind that easily the biggest factor in ticket sales analysis is the effect of the W-L record, one cannot summarily dismiss everything else that fans are complaining about. For starters, there is absolutely no doubt that more and more Michigan fans have given up their season tickets because they've been priced out of the market. I myself am close to that tipping point where I give up the season tickets and opt for cherry-picking individual games from ticket-broker websites such as Stubhub.
But I'll let it go at that, other than to say that there are a lot of negative factors out there working against keeping the attendance streak alive, including several that have nothing to do with how our Athletic Director and his department do business.
Attendance should never go down because of losing at a place like Michigan. Prices and other things maybe, but Alabama and Nebraska have had sellouts forever and they haven't always been good. I'm not ok with losing but no true fan would stop going because of Michigan losing a few games. That's Yankees Heat t-shirt fan level stuff.
Consumers purchase things based on perceived value.
Value is typically based on some sort of combination of the price and perceived quality of the product.
The problem is that prices are rising while the quality of the product (six/seven years of underperformance and mediocrity).
Thus, the perceived value of the product - Michigan football games - has decreased.
The long run effect of the decreased perceived value is that the demand for the product decreases...and thus the lack of sellouts.
If the team had been a national championship contender over the past six years, I can guarantee you that there'd still be a waiting list...regardless of the price increases.
The price of tuition at U of M has increased dramatically at U of M over the past ten years, but demand (applications) continues to increase. Why? Because the perceived value is there...so consumers (students or their parents) are willing to pay the price.
Michigan football isn't a product. Ice cream is a product. Nebraska and Alabama have both sold out even when their teams haven't been good. Texas sold out the past few years even though they've sucked.
Is it a unique product? Does it have a passionate and connected consumer base? Does it have a strong brand?
Nonetheless, it is a product. One vulnerable to the vagaries of perceived value and supply and demand.
So then why don't Nebraska, Texas, Alabama (mid 2000s) have trouble selling out. It has to do with fan passion which we are lacking. If we want to call ourselves a top tier program we need people to come regardless if the team is good or not. I expect attendance issues at a place like Purdue or Illinois. I guess it shows that the fans were never as loyal as we thought.
The question was answered in the post to which you responded. It is straightforward supply and demand. Michigan football is very much a product, with a particular value that its fan base places on it.
access to student loans. If students and/or parents had to pay college tuition without this artificial support you'd see much lower tuition or many fewer applications or both.
Based solely on anecdotal data, from conversations with students currently in college, a large number of students expect to either have a large percentage of their student loan debt forgiven, or paid for them as that debt becomes an ever larger political issue.
Attendance should never go down because of losing at a place like Michigan
This. We really have a terrible fan base. Don't get me started on the students as well.
That doesn't include the excessive bitching about Brandon, complaining about the team/coaches/players. I guess supporting your team/program is a difficult concept to some
Should it go down if ticket prices increase 1000%?
Nebraska's sellout streak is like our 100K streak. It's gone on for so long that in all likelihood, it's never going to end, even if that means a few *wink wink nudge nudges* from the school.
Second, Alabama only had a sellout streak from about 2004, and they lost it in 2012. How did Alabama, in the midst of back-to-back titles, and one in 2009 not sell out? Because they were playing Western Carolina.
Even last year, on the heels of a National Title and a 4-0 start, Alabama was having trouble selling out their stadium for Homecoming of all games.
Lionsfan just hit the nail on the head. How many on this board believe we are having this discussion if the non-conference home schedule featured (for example) Duke, Cincinnati, and Central Michigan instead of Utah, Miami (NTM), and App St? I'll give DB a pass by saying the B1G didn't give him an option with the MSU flip in this scenario. There would still be some grumbling about higher prices, but I find it hard to believe that there would be this large of a reduction in ticket sales if we had more attractive opponents.
Regarding only the matter of attendance, traditional top-tier schools, such as Nebraska and even tOSU are different animals from the Michigans and Alabamas of the NCAA world. The former are the only shows in town. In David Brandon-speak, Nebraska and tOSU don't have to "share inventory" (cheeks in the seats) with any other major program in their respective states. Michigan, Alabama, along with most other major programs across the country must compete for their ticket sales. Alabama competes with Auburn; U-Florida has FSU and the U; while Michigan does so with MSU. In my example laid out in the previous sentence, if either of these states had just one major program, the ability to sellout every game would be even greater than what it is.
In other words, something nearly catastrophic would likely have to occur if Nebraska or tOSU do not sell out. Even with the puff pastries tOSU has traditionally placed on their non-conference schedule, you never hear of even a whisper that those games aren't going to sell out.
I grew up in the Schembechler-Ufer-Canham era. You went to a Michigan game to see the GAME and to hear the band. Kick-off what at 1:05 p.m. and the refs, not the network, called time-out.
Today, so many people need to be entertained in between being entertained. So much of it is now required to be an "experience" rather than the armature college sporting event it is supposed to be. Don't get me wrong, all of the upgrades Michigan has done with and around the stadium were necessary -- in order to keep up with the Jones' who also had to upgrade to try to compete with the historically successful programs.
And the wheel just keeps on turning.
In the process of writing this, I found a pretty good website that lists all of the football schools listed by state at http://prwolfe.bol.ucla.edu/cfootball/LinksList.html . It doesn't identify which division the schools are in but it does help make my point.
That was informative. I think a lot of us are less worried about net attendance and more worried about the perception that students are being marginalized in the game day experience. I certainly worry that we are pricing out a significant portion of the student population and unnecessarily undermining the students' desired game day experience. Students' desires shouldn't be the only concern on game day, but they should be one of the major ones. On the other hand, students were leaving quite a few seats empty for large portions of the games and DB seemed to be trying to correct for that. It seems like a healthy dialogue between the student government and the university leadership would go a long ways towards improving the situation. Winning will go a long way towards filling the stadium, but many of us want more than just winning and a full stadium. Student body participation is a big part of what makes college football, perhaps especially UM football, such a wonderful sport. From my perspective, pricing out large numbers of students seems antithetical to this aspect of the game. It seems like we are having a much needed discussion on this and other points. The focus on attendance seems tangential and distracting with respect to these important concerns.
if you are going to talk students then let's talk tuition and elitism. Michigan isn't the school I attended back in the day on campus - I'm not sure I should expect the current student athletic fees/tickets to be any better.
There was a student attendance issue before the DB break it fix it break it again shenanigans.
But... yes... students should be encouraged not discouraged. It's sad. If you go to the Bentley site they discuss how Yost and others wanted everyone to be able to come and attend. They held lotteries for tickets before Michigan stadium was built.
If the team were winning, there'd be a waiting list and there'd be little to no bitching about DB's "wow" experience.
It's just like in the business world. When you're hitting your budget people ignore the bullshit. When you're not hitting your budget and the boss is pissed everyone is frustrated and bitches about everything.
As was stated in an earlier post, students don't have time to piss away money on an over priced product. But the BIG, and I give Michigan credit for being the last team to institute the ridiculous "franchise fee." There was no need for it unless it's a welfare program aimed at pissing away money on programs that cannot finance themselves. It is the real world, and just as these players, no matter the sex, cannot generate enough revenue to cover their cost of participation, chances are almost the same their won't be enough interest for them to pursue their sport after graduation in a money making capacity because their particular sport does not exist in a professional format. Is this fair then to penalize these players by doing away with their sport at a conference level? Well...........yeah. They aren't being penalized, the basketball and football teams are for having to shoulder the cost of all other programs.
This is why intramural sports exist. I realize Michigan softball generates interest, but who do you know that's purchased a ticket to one of their games? Chances are no one unless you know a family member or friend of one of the players.
But it is not the students who refuse to show up that is driving attendance down. As a former season ticket holder, it was the introducion of the franchise fee that forced me to offer my tickets for sale. 1300.00 for two tickets for six or seven home games is easy math. The only way this could be considered non-excessive is if you were promised games of interest. In that particular year, neither ND or OSU was on the home schedule and MSU was playing in a manner we've been playing for far too long. Suffice to say the schedule that year did not even come close to justifying a price increase of roughly 100%. And that was prior to the team stinking up the joint and you could almost count on the team losing a game or two in Sep to take us out of contention for any post season glory, other than winning a game. I am not certain how many others sold their tickets, but I will admit mine were in Sec 2, row 38 and part of a four seat arrangement with my brother-in-law that provided seats 16 through 19, i.e. aisle seats. I am aware these were tickets of the highest value and obviously others were o.k. with keeping their season tickets. I simply enjoyed paying the price on the ticket of 54.00 pr game and being able to treat any of my friends to a game at the Big House, a first time experience for many of them. Paying 200.00 for the same two seats to watch a Bowling Green, Miami of OH, SDSU- many of which we played less than decent, and then there would have been the opportunity of paying for a 200.00 ass whipping at the hands of ORE or perennial power Appy St. And who in their right minds wanted to see games while RR was attempting to restore a semblance of glory to UM, only to be blamed for the entire team getting sick because one of the equipment managers happened to sneeze. The treatment of that man rubbed many of us older fans the wrong way. While it is true that a number of Michigan fans believe we, no matter the circumstances, should win in double digits each and every year. It is also true that many fans of my age group were well aware of the mess this man inherited whereas members of those in the former group were not even aware we were missing what amounted to an entire recruiting class, roughly twenty under the 85 limit and basically the exact number needed on the defensive side of the ball because we didn't even have enough players to go two deep on that side of the l.o.s.
Bacon is well aware of those stats, and I'll be among the first to admit he was a fan of RR's because unlike many of us, he was not only aware of the state of the program, but he also had access to the man in the same manner many of the writers who deplored his existence as the head man at UM and just as much as Bacon endorsed the man, their agenda was far different and they were willing to get him out of town even if it meant commiting totally unethical practices in their now obsolete profession. Personally, I'd love to see this man in charge of the talent we have today, but being the whipping boy for almost everyone who had access to the team via an I.D. as a sports writer because they actually existed in those days, prevented him from assembling anything close to this level of talent. However, he was such an astute judge of talent that Brady's only successful season was the result of being able to field a team made up of his recruits. So you can add Michigan arrogance to the list of reasons for lower attendance as well, and although it may be overlooked as a root cause due to his record, believe me there existed far too many of us who simply wanted nothing more to do with the program until everyone seemed to be on the same page again. That lasted for all of one season, but it became perfectly clear just who had been properly coached and who hadn't as soon as those players left.
You can use whatever charts you wish to prove whatever point it is you are trying to make, but the bottom line is, and you stated that as well, Michigan fans will return to their seats once Michigan players performing in the manner they did under the man for putting all those asses in the seat, and it wasn't the man who followed Moeller. Even with a NC under his belt, it was during that period that Michigan began to perform in a manner foreign to us, and sadly it didn't occur on a once in a five year period but became as synonomous with M football as did the HC giving a speech to his players prior to their bowl game, probably the 13th or 14th contest of that particular year trying to convince them we could still have a successful season if we could simply get to double digits on the W side of the ledger, something we had done routinely in season where the norm was 11 to 12 games. And the fans were buying this bullshit up as evidenced by the expanded chests after beating a three-or was it a four loss- Florida team coming off a national championship but filled with a team full of talent but extremely young underclassmen. We were a far better team than Fl. that season especially at the skill positions even though they boasted Jesus's brother as their Heisman winning qb. All one has to do is add three TDs to our winning total because Mike Hart was guilty of not once, not twice, but three times of doing something he hadn't done since his freshman season vs. Iowa. And just as important, was LC actually allowing DeBord to run a 21st century offense that allowed Henne to use all his targets and then when the ball was given to Hart, again in opposited situations than Lloyd had used for his entire career, it appeared that he and Jake Long were the only two players on the filed near the ball for at least the first 20 to 25 yards before Florida's young defense figured out, "Hey, we were never coached to stop an offense that gave the ball to its TB unless they needed to grind out a 3 and 1 and their all too famous dive plays on first down."
We can go on and on as to why that stadium isn't filled, but we can also be honest and revisit history and write that since the '69 OSU game, it was either completely sold out or had over 100,000 fans in the seats for a record setting number of games for no other reason than we hired a coach for 18,000 a year that proved to be one of the very best the game has ever seen and although a 55-0 win over a Purdue or NW wasn't that exciting, except for the occasional toe stub that even the best of programs endure, it was the norm because far superior teams are supposed to win by margins of that nature, not hold our breath against a SDSU and similar programs even though our talent level may have been even greater that it was during the 70s, a decade where we won more games than any other team in cfb or the 80s, although not as glorious as the preceeding 10 years but still providing us with lopsided victories vs. teams we simply outmanned and devloping game plans that resulted in Yes, that Miami tossing four ints against us, more than their combined number for the remainder of the season because we had a staff that could and players that might have made a pit stop in the NFL, but with the exception of just a few, never really developed as NFL players, i.e., Mark Messner, et. al., because they simply borrowed the Marine slogan and became all they could be. Yost did it, Crisler did it, Bo did it. Toss away all charts, stats, etc. Get us a coach of that caliber and the waiting list is reinstalled the moment he signs.
That's totally incorrect.
Check the attendance figures, and you'll see that despite our tremendous success in 1969, 1970, '71, '72, '73, and '74, the consecutive run of 100K+ crowds did not begin until the Purdue game in 1975.
It took almost seven full seasons under Bo before the stadium was filled every Saturday. And that was during an era of inexpensive seats, concessions, and parking.
In other words, a team's performance on the field does not necessarily have an immediate impact on attendance. As bad as we were during the RR years, the stadium was filled, and we didn't hear of too many fans refusing to renew their tickets. That's happened during the demonstrably more successful Hoke years.
As far as the problems with the student attendance goes, people keep making the mistake of saying that students weren't buying tickets in 2013, but that wasn't the problem. The problem is that the students were buying the tickets but were showing up very late, or not at all.
The idiot GA seating clusterfuck last year cured that problem for 2014, since now student ticket purchase are actually down considerably, by all accounts. Brandon has achieved through error what he should have done purposefully, which is to simply reduce the size of the student section by at least 25%. The problem is a straightforward one of insufficient demand relative to supply.
As to why the demand is insufficient is the real issue, and there's no single answer, especially since the student population has different desires than the non-student ticket holders.
I think the decision by Brandon to give official U-M approval of the secondary Stub-Hub market was very counter-productive, since it simply encourages prospective ticket buyers to not purchase season tickets.
75% of the tickets are sold to the public many of whom are alumni. They tend to be loyal but only to a point. I am one that believes the attendance issue is at a tipping point. Should Michigan go through another mediocre season and no subsequent coaching changes you will notice a larger decline in attendance.
Loyalty is based in part on expectations. If the program is trending downward, many just jump ship.
Alabama still sold out in the 2005 and 2006 pre Saban. Texas has had no drop off from 2009 to 2014. In order to be a top tier program we need people to come EVERYTIME even if we are 0-12 and losing games by 100 points. Recruits don't like empty seats and I question the motivations of some people when they'd rather have our program self destruct and Hoke/Brandon to be gone than for us to recruit well and win games.
First, you need to source your claims about Texas. Because I've looked high and low, and seen nothing about a Texas sellout streak.
Second, Alabama had 10-win seasons in 2002 and 2005 pre-Saban. They weren't as good as they were now, but they had bright spots. Also, what do you have to say about Alabama not selling out some of their games the last two years. Guess they're not a Top-Tier program.
Florida State just sold-out their tickets for the first time since 2003, guess they weren't a Top-Tier program last year either
He never said ANYTHING about a Texas sellout streak, which you seemed to pull out of your ass. He simply said there was no drop off in attendance.
Look at his earlier posts in the thread
3:30 pm games are threatening my 40 years of renewals as more and more of my section friends give up their seats for the same reason.
I don't like the AD's money is everything approach.
I do not like late games.
I don't like boring football, aka Lloyd ball.
I don't like underacheiving talent which Mich seems to have a lot of.
Michigan has had a pretty good mix of all lately.
When it comes to getting just about all students to attend a game, particularly by kickoff, I really think the best solution would be to schedule better nonconference opponents.
Increasing ticket prices isn't the answer. The reason for that is that having bought their tickets several months in advance, they're not going to thinking as much about the money they dropped vs if they purchased their tickets the day before.
What will be in their minds though, is making sure they see the whole game against an opponent such as Oregon, for example. However, if the nonconference schedule consists of all mid-major and D1AA opponents like CMU or App State, students ARE NOT going to feel rushed to get to the stadium just to see the band come out the tunnel.
-Reason: Often times pregames/tailgates/boozing/getting shitty with your friends a bit longer is just more appealing than catching the first 30ish minutes against Delaware State. If you don't believe me then go check out some of the big parties with hundreds of students on Hill, State, East U or Church. It won't be hard to tell they're enjoying themselves...a lot.
Yes, I am something of a luddite, but it was the simple things that made the Michigan game day experience unique, especially walking to the stadium among the hoardes of fans as you walk down E. Hoover while hearing the marching band in the distance. Now, I imgaine, those students that do go to the game have their noses buried in their iPhone completely missing the fact that they are part of the largest crowd to watch a football game.
I still find it remarkable, however, that I can see every Michigan game, even the shitty ones, in my living room 600 miles away. I didn't have a tv as a student (other than a 13 inch black and white), which I am sure is not the case for any student today.
in fact I bet the majority of them don't own one - though all have access.