On one side is athletic director David Brandon, who has been nationally lauded for his business acumen and overseeing the transformation of the University of Michigan’s athletic department.
On the other is the Michigan Board of Regents, who thus far have been willing accomplices to Brandon’s dramatic reinvention of Michigan football tradition.
Have you heard the good news?
The Michigan Wolverine Football Program made $61.6 MILLION in 2011-12.
For most organizations it would be cause for celebration. In Ann Arbor it was time to raise prices.
Yes, despite record profits the Michigan Athletic Department announced that is raising taxes on football season ticket holders…err increasing the amount of preferred seat donations for those who wish to keep their season tickets.
The move will help pad the bottom line of the Athletic Department and help to fuel another wave of buildings on the athletic campus.
But the move intensifies the debate of how skyrocketing ticket prices impact the sustainability of the athletic department profit model.
The ranks of basketball and hockey season ticket holders have been thinned by years of price increases and student season ticket holder numbers have likewise fluctuated.
With huge pockets of empty seats in the student section in Michigan Stadium this past season, it appears that even football isn’t immune to the impact of high ticket prices. Many season ticket holders began attending games as students, transitioning to public season ticket holders after graduation. The Athletic Department risks losing these fans as they graduate.
Many current football season tickets holders are selling a portion of their season tickets to help subsidize their costs. This latest increase have caused some to question the true value of their season tickets. With a waiting list for football season ticket holders, the athletic department seems to be immune to people not renewing their season tickets.
If the athletic department could weather the RichRod era with its losing record and NCAA scandal, a few lost season ticket holders doesn’t seem like a big deal. But with every long time fan who gives up their football, hockey, or basketball season tickets the athletic department gets in return a customer with little or no loyalty to Michigan Athletics.
As the Big Ten expands to include such powerhouses as Maryland and Rutgers, season ticket holders are questioning what kind of games they’ll be seeing in the Big House in future seasons. While the future impact of expansion and tickets prices are unknown, the people making the current decisions won’t be around to face the long term ramifications of these recent developments.
I’m sure we haven’t seen the end of the money grab. Big Ten expansion will only drive revenues so far. Online viewing will start to erode the stranglehold of cable television and then the Big Ten Network will need to some other source cash. That’s why within the next 5 years we’ll see major event games follow the pay-per-view model. It’s the next logical step in the evolution of greed.
The conference will win, the schools will win, and college football will be headed down the road to being about as relevant as boxing.
It’s a bleak future when the people running your athletic program care more about dollars than fans. But more and more it seems that the short sighted greed of a few will lead to the death of college football as we know it.
After a few glasses of Cristal (compliments of adidas), Michigan Athletic David Brandon put down his thoughts on the preferred seat donation program…
Hey buddy! How are things in your neck of the woods? Well, I have to say things are pretty swell here! I mean, apart from that 8-4 football season (who would have known that all those away games would have been so darn difficult) and the hockey team taking a dive. But hey, have you SEEN that basketball team? WOW!
You and all of your other fellow pals in the end zones are great people. Really you are! You’re loud, wild, crazy, and you throw some really cool tailgate parties. I know they’re not as fancy as the ones in the Crisler parking lot, but a hot dog is a hot dog, and you guys know how to cook them just how I like them. The problem is that I’ve made a lot of promises lately. Crazy promises. We’ve got about 600 or something other sports programs (I forget them all – I can’t remember everything), and face it, this one and basketball are the only ones that are paying the university’s bills right now. I know in 2004 that the message was sent that you wouldn’t have to pay anything for a seat donation where you sit. Sure, we’ve tripled our revenue from bowl games proceeds and we’re rolling in cash from that Big Ten Network revenue and all of these luxury boxes. I also know that your ticket stub for the MSU game this year at $95 is a little different then that stub you may have saved from the 1995 MSU game that read $35….but our new tickets are really shiny now!
Basically, we’re strapped. I’m counting on you pal! And don’t think you’re alone. We made sure to stick it to those rich folks that sit everywhere else (yeah, those jerks). We have to get some money, and fast! We just got a deal that we couldn’t pass up. We met this guy at a Legitimate Businessmen’s Social Club meeting and he told us that if we build 10 buildings with his company, he’ll throw the 11th and 12th structures in for free! How can you pass that up? Plus, with the price of gas so high and my recent addiction to candy cigarettes, $800,000 a year is just not going to cut it as a salary.
Anyway, we need to get this done quickly and it costs a lot of money. We figured an extra $10 million a year in perpetuity should just about cover it. And the good news is, we aren’t raising ticket prices this year. Not one cent!! I know you were expecting it, but I’m just that kind of guy. It’s just like a tax cut! We accept cash, check or Diner’s Club cards only. Make sure you get this in quickly, or we’re going to give your tickets to some random Ohio State fan….and we really don’t want that happening. Could you live with the fact that YOU let that happen?
Anyway, we’ll be expecting your $75 soon. The heated yellow brick road in front of Crisler has already broken ground and I had to front my 11th Bentley as collateral. Those builders are relentless!
Maybe I’ll see you some Saturday…..
P.S. I’ve enclosed a picture showing how dire the situation is here at the Athletic Department. Send help quick!
Special Thanks to Bryan Smitt for passing this along!
The athletic department is building a new electronic billboard which according to Athletic Director David Brandon, “…happens to be across the street from a golf course so it won’t annoy anybody.”
This is interesting on two counts.
First, if it’s not going to annoy anyone why build it? Isn’t the whole point of a billboard to get attention?
Critics from the community have questioned the need for such a billboard to which Brandon responded, “…It’s not at all unusual for athletic campuses … to have some sort of display board activity.”
Yeah, Dave, right. It’s not unusual for athletic campuses to have football stadiums either.
Of course, not many have a capacity of over 109,000.
Everything that Michigan does is over the top. And the Athletic Department is very successful. According to the NCAA, UM is one of the few athletic programs turning a profit.
And Michigan fans like it that way and so do many residents in the Ann Arbor area who live around the University of Michigan campus.
Hail the Victors! The Leaders and Best!
But success sometimes breeds arrogance and increasingly the Athletic Department is being perceived as being oblivious to the local community.
When a regent suggested that, “…Brandon consider allowing local non-profit organizations to advertise on the sign “so the community can feel part of the board that they will be looking at,” he shot the idea down.
Too hard! Can’t do it!
Now there are some amazing people working the athletic department, many of whom have come in under Brandon’s tenure. Surely one of them could figure out a policy and procedure to handle such requests.
But Brandon would have to make that a priority. And there’s the rub, the athletic director wants the community to support his sports teams and athletes (especially the so called non-revenue sports) but seems less and less open to community input.
You would think someone who had been voted out as regent would have learned to pay a little more attention to the public.
Brandon has brought much needed discipline from to the Athletic Department but it has come at a price.
You hear the term “metric” thrown around a lot.
The metric for loyalty is now measured in Priority Points rather than years as a season ticket holder. Fans who’ve had their seats for 20,30, even 40 years are losing out to deep-pocketed donors.
These long time fans are your core demographic, and they’re getting dumped on.
The Athletic Department leadership needs to understand that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
There is no Michigan Athletic Department without the University of Michigan, and the University is publicly funded by the taxpayers of Michigan. Upset enough people and you have a problem.
By most metrics the tenure of Athletic Director Dave Brandon has been a stunning success. The hire of football coach Brady Hoke, the Big Chill, and the first night game in Michigan Stadium history are all positive metrics.
The focus on the “Michigan” brand, while annoying to some, is a positive step to improve the overall marketing of the athletic department.
There may be no clear metric for it yet but there are people who are upset at some of the drastic changes.
Unhappy long time fans and a local community that perceives you as arrogant is a volatile mix that shouldn’t be ignored.
If the athletic department truly wants to realize its vision of “…Relentlessly Striving to make Michigan Athletics the Leaders and Best in Every Way!” it would be well served to be a better partner with its local Ann Arbor neighbors and be more receptive to the complaints of its fans.