The College Football Ticket Bubble in Three Links


Is college football out-pricing its fans, or just not giving them a good reason to show up?

There is a decline going on at college football games. Over half of the FBS reported a drop in attendance and eight BCS schools saw attendance drop by over 10 percent. What there isn't is consensus on why there is a decline happening. Possible factors include the rising cost of attending games, soft non-conference scheduling, and the vast improvement of the at-home game watching experience over the last decade.

College football isn't the only sport to confront the idea of attendance declines and unlike most sports, college football has more of a cultural push to keep attendance higher with Saturday games, student populations, and the community aspect of tailgating.

However, one thing that is interesting -- at least for Michigan fans, as this may not be universal -- is that ticket prices might not be escalating all that much after all. As long as you do it right.

Over at MZone, Yost put together a season long study that compared the face value of season tickets to what he was able to get those tickets for on the secondary market. While the Michigan State game was much more expensive on the secondary market, the rest were considerably cheaper. Although, Yost points out the obvious disclaimer:

So this completely proves our hypothesis, right? In the words of Lee Corso, not so fast.

As noted, the 2012 Michigan home schedule - how should we put this? - sucked balls. There was only one "must see" game: Michigan State. And as the tally above indicates, that didn't exactly work out in the StubHub purchaser's favor (especially for EndZone guy).

Next year, Michigan has three marquee home games: Notre Dame (for the last time!), Nebraska (revenge) and Ohio State (Urb's first game in The Big House with the Bucks). Thus, one could reasonably expect to pay - and I think this is the correct term - a f*ckload more for those games.

So while season ticket prices do seem to be going up, as are all the other fees and mandatory donations to get those season tickets, some games are just plain old cheap to attend on the secondary market, which is simultaneously a strike against ticket prices and another piece of evidence in the "declining attendance due to shit games" argument.

Of course, if you can't get up the motivation to drive down to the local university to watch your alma mater, do you really want to travel halfway across the country to watch that team in a mediocre bowl game?

Dan Wetzel has spent a lot of time talking about the evils of bowls, but one of the things he keeps going back to is just how unsustainable the model is. Schools continue to dish out ridiculous amounts of money to bowl committees to come and play in meaningless exhibition games. It might all be worth it if fans kept buying up tickets at full price. They aren't.

"The secondary markets got a lot of Orange Bowl tickets on it right now for a lot of different reasons," said FSU Assistant Director of Athletics for Media and Public Relations Rob Wilson. "It's important to us that our fans buy through Florida State because we have a financial commitment to that, so we've cut our tickets in half."

The 17,500 tickets FSU had to sell originally ranged from $225 to $75 but, in order to try and limit the damage of slow sales, the university is now offering tickets from $112.50 to $37.50.

Even if FSU sold all 17,500 tickets, the university is still guaranteed to lose money with the discounts.

So fans that want to watch FSU play NIU across the state in the Orange Bowl can either pay the FSU AD full price, or go on Stubhub and get discounted tickets. To keep up, the FSU AD eats the difference and offers the tickets at a discounted rate just to get something. Everyone continues to get paid -- if by everyone you mean the Orange Bowl committee members.

It will be interesting in the coming years watching the way A) the new playoff changes things, B) the impact of the internet/technology on all of this, and C) if cable companies ever face the prospect of not bundling sports programming with everything else -- therefore cutting off the big TV subsidy from the large portion of the cable subscribing population that doesn't give two shits about sports -- and thus cuts into the golden egg that has been the big moneymaker over the last couple decades.

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