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WSJ: Student Sections Likely to Have Empty Seats
Thursday, August 28, 2014 5:15 PM
Among college football's heavyweights, student attendance was lower in 2013 than 2009 at Ohio State University, Michigan State University, University of Florida and Florida State University. It also declined at the University of Michigan and LSU, though the schools didn't provide five years of data to the Journal.
Schools can't even rely on students who buy tickets to show up at games—or they trickle into their seats late and leave early. At the University of Kansas, which had a 3-9 record last season, 74% of student tickets went unused.
At Michigan, an average of 14,749 students showed up at the college's home games last season, an 11% decline from 2011. The team won just seven games in 2013, down from 11 in 2011.
The attendance slide also was blamed on an increase in student ticket prices, which jumped to $295 from $205 last year, as Michigan replaced a long-standing policy that rewarded seniority with a plan that gave students general-admission access. A midseason survey by the college's student government showed that 76% of student season-ticket holders disapproved of the new plan.
"There are students who are being priced out," says Michael Proppe, a 22-year-old Michigan business student who was the student-body president last year. "People are looking to trim costs, and for a lot of folks, football is an easy thing to cut. It's not essential to going to college."
Student dissatisfaction led to another change that takes effect at Michigan's home opener against Appalachian State University on Saturday. Michigan students are now assigned seats based on how many sports games they attended the previous school year. The athletic department, which formed a student council for advice on ticketing issues, also decided to offer discounted, single-game student tickets.
Michigan has another problem. Because of the Big Ten's expansion, Michigan's home schedule doesn't include either Michigan State or Ohio State, Michigan's two biggest rivals, for the first time since 1966. Football ticket sales to Michigan students are down 40% from last year.
Ohio St.'s actions are not unlike their lower intestine: stinky and loaded with danger.