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.
Ferry Field, 1922 Illinois game, attendance 41,000.
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.
1905 Wisconsin game, last game at Regents Field, attendance of 17,000
Ferry Field finished with a capacity of 45,000 which makes this Wisconsin game in 1924 oversold as well.
Ferry Field, 1924 Wisconsin game, attendance 46,000.
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.
Photo courtesy of mGrowOld’s former section mate.
My apologies for data misconstrued or otherwise. It’s a diary… not a white paper.