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Athletics assured to hit 15,000 football attendance benchmark; might require sponsors to buy tickets

Only several rows of fans sit before the second quarter of Saturdays football game against Akron at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. The estimated attendance of the game was 10,172. (Bethany Walter/Staff Photographer)

Derek van der Merwe said he is confident Central Michigan football will be in compliance with Division I attendance requirements despite an announced attendance of just 10,172 at the football game Saturday.

“We are going to be compliant,” the Deputy Director of Athletics said.  “There are a couple of different ways to reach for compliance and we are going to use one of the two mechanisms to be compliant.”

When submitting its report to the NCAA at the end of the season, CMU athletics can use either a headcount system or a paid ticket system. Whatever system it uses, the average attendance number must be at or above 15,000.

“If you use the paid system, you can make sure you don’t end up below 15,000,” van der Merwe said.  “Other groups can buy tickets; sponsors can buy tickets that help you get to that provision.  That’s how other schools in the (Mid-American) Conference have done it.”

After next Saturday’s home game against Western Michigan, van der Merwe said CMU athletics will gain a better understanding of which method it might use to comply.

“The Western game is a big game for us,” he said.  “We always have very strong attendance at Western, so once we see where we are at after Western week, we can figure out how things are going to line up going into the last game of the season.”

CMU athletics announces the estimated attendance after every game, but that number includes student groups (band, cheerleaders, working staff and possibly players), which cannot be used when submitting its final attendance numbers to the NCAA.

So far this season, the average estimated attendance is 17,791.  Last year, the average estimated attendance was 15,291, but CMU athletics reported to the NCAA that it was 10,466 — well below the Division I benchmark needed once every two years.

But beginning this year, CMU Athletics is using a new method to estimate attendance.  It is using scanners for all tickets.

“We are continuing to test the scanning,” van der Merwe said.  “Obviously, it’s going to provide greater accuracy.”

However, van der Merwe said just how much more accurate the scanner readings are will not be determined until after the season.

“Our estimates are still preliminary estimates until we sit down with the auditors,” he said.  “I think we are trying to be as careful as possible, making sure they are as close as possible to what the audit numbers will be.”

With seven home games on the schedule this season including matchups against Michigan State, Navy and WMU, attendance was expected to see a major increase.

But after a crowd of 35,127 Sept. 8 against MSU, CMU has failed to hit the 16,000 mark in any of the other four home games thus far.

According to Mike Zimmerman, a CMU alumnus and season ticket holder, the primary reason for the lack of fans is the team’s performance on the field.

“I think they are tired of seeing the team lose,” Zimmerman said.  “Its been a struggle.  You get used to winning for a few years and the program looked to be going in the right direction, and now after back-to-back 3-9 seasons, and this year not looking much better, people are getting frustrated.”

Freshman Mitchell Schrader said he believes the team’s performance plays a role for students deciding to come to the game, but the main factor is the weather.

“I think the weather really affected this game (Akron),” Schrader said.  “It’s pretty chilly out.  If it was nice, I think a lot more people would be out here.”

And the small crowds do not just affect the CMU athletics program.

Zimmerman said it must be deflating for the players to look up in the stands and see the abundant number of vacant seats.

“It’s got to be depressing for the players when none of the students show up to watch,” he said.  “I mean only three rows of the student section were filled today.  That’s got to be at least a little bit discouraging.”

16 Comments

  1. Absolutely tragic. Where is the leadership we once knew, frittered away in the time it takes to get from there to here.

  2. michmediaperson says:

    Question for CM LIFE to ask. Are the sponsors buying the tickets at face value or for a buck apiece? Exactly how much.

    It wouldn’t be fair to the season ticket holders to pay full price and then have people getting tickets for free if they stop by the sponsor.
    Wait till next year without MSU, Navy, Western. We will definitely not hit the required attendance mark.

  3. ObservantAlum says:

    Blame the Administration. Those academic “intellectuals” have a difficult time understanding that a good football team is one of the most important aspects of university profitability. A quality football team is historically proven to increase enrollment, increase ancillary revenues, and generate good PR for the school.

    Therefore, you must be willing to INVEST in the football program. We had two of the best coaches in the country, and let both of them go because the Administration can’t stand to see the football coach get paid 3x what they make. Deal with it. Pay people what they are worth. Otherwise get used to empty stands and a hollow feeling in the community every fall.

    As an alum, I refuse to donate a single penny to CMU until they put something together on the field. Sad but true. I like winners. Students like winners. Alumni like winners. Right now we have a coach, and an administration who are losers.

    • Brian Kelly and Butch Jones were going to leave no matter what we paid. MAC schools are a stepping stone to bigger programs and CMU is not the only school that has had coaches leave for better things. Money has little to do with it

      • Really? How’s Ohio U done with Frank Solich? Western has held Cubit for at least 7 years. MAC schools are limited by their vision more than money.

        • Bill Cubit is not a great coach. Western has been a middling program for a long time under his reign and have won zero MAC championships under him. BK and Butch each won at least one MAC championships. Frank Solich is 68 years old and hasn’t won a MAC title. Neither of your examples are relevant to up and coming coaches that started in the MAC. Recent examples: Jerry Kill from NIU to Minnesota, Tim Beckman from Toledo to Illinois, Brady Hoke from Ball State to SDSU, Gary Pinkel from Toledo to Missouri. It is delusional to think that an up and coming head coach would stay at a MAC school. The MAC simply does not have the recruiting resources, facilities, fan base, or national exposure that coaches want. It is more than being able to shell out money.

    • Forget football says:

      “Blame the Administration. Those academic “intellectuals” have a difficult time understanding that a good football team is one of the most important aspects of university profitability.”

      Because it isn’t true. At CMU’s level, football is a money pit, and always will be.

      “I like winners.”

      Sucks to be you, then.

  4. It’s only going to get worse.

  5. So rumor has it that Herek and van der Merwe were too cheap to pay Butch Jones what he was worth and thought they got a good deal with Enos financially. Well guess what, they should have paid Butch Jones what he was worth because CMU would have had continuous winning seasons; MSU could have been beaten in Mt. Pleasant; students would attend games regardless of weather conditions; and now they wouldn’t have to worry about how to reach the 15,000 fans per game requirement! As the saying, goes, penny wise, pound foolish! By the time Enos is let go, they will have lost three to four generations of students that will be tough to get back for Homecoming let alone recruit for the Chippewa Club and 1100 Club! Hats off to Heeke and van der Merwe for a job not done well at all!

  6. michmediaperson says:

    To Observant Alum:

    Outstanding post! If you do the math, Butch would have cost us $650,000 more a year. I’m sure for a million dollars a year, he would have stayed. Do the math. At $20 a ticket, if Butch gets you 10,000 more fans a game. That’s $200,000 more a game times 7 home games equals $1.4 million. In 5-home game years, that’s 1 million. That more than covers the $650,000 increase. Plus, more concessions, parking, clothing and the community makes money on hotels, restaurants, etc. More fund-raising dollars, etc.

    This university does NOT understand break-even analysis. Is there anyone in Grawn Hall that could give Warriner Hall and Heeke’s staff a tutorial?
    Brady Hoke makes significantly more than Coleman, the U-M president.
    Dantonio makes significantly more than Simon, the MSU president.
    Kelly makes zillions of dollars more than the priests at Notre Dame who live in the dorms.
    I guess George and the unions at CMU just don’t understand modern day university economics.
    ObservantAlum, I’m like you, no more contributions until we get a Kelly or Jones in here.

  7. Attendance at HC was very telling…

  8. Concerned Chip says:

    If the Chippewas played exciting games people would go to the games. Its not the students fault that Enos and Radcliff cannot put together a complete game. We got whipped by MSU this year, a team were “supposed” to compete with. After that embarrassment students seem to lack the will to go cheer on a team that is less exciting than taking a nap. We need another Dan Lefevour Brian kelly situation… Fire up

  9. As much as I wish Kelly and Jones would have stayed, they were going to move on no matter what. Many coaches work their way up the ladder if they are successful at each rung. For example, Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer went from Mac schools to programs in bigger conferences to top of the heap college programs. I would bet Butch Jones is looking for another job at a top BCS school.
    Always trying to move up is not limited to the coaching profession. College presidents and deans do the same thing. U of M presidents often have their eye on an Ivy League job, just like Rao jumped to VCU.
    Saturday was a great day to go watch the football game. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the game went well. Hopefully Coach Enos can get the program going so well that he becomes sought after by bigger programs. It stinks that bigger programs come and lure away our successful coaches,but until CMU has a 70,000 plus stadium full of fans to watch top 10 recruiting classes, this is the way it is going to be.
    I hope the stadium is full for Western and we celebrate a big victory.

  10. Dump football says:

    CMU is an institution of higher learning, not a minor league sports franchise. Dump sports and focus on education. Considering that football causes brain damage in the normal course of play, it’s worse than unproductive for a university to support it.

  11. Yes, if you are a good coach then the MAC is a stepping stone to bigger and better things. It has been that way as far back as Woody and Bo. However, there are those who choose to stay because one can be the big fish in a little pond (Deromedi and Solich), I doubt any colleges will be knocking on Enos’s door to take him to a bigger school. He is in over his head as he never was a head coach or even a coordinator before. CMU is his “on the job” training. If any of us had the job performance he has displayed we would have been fired. It is dollars and cents. Until it becomes a smart $ decision to get rid of him, he will be here. As a four season ticket holder the product this year is the worst I have seen at Kelly/Shorts. There is no progress in this program. CMU has been embarrassed by the off the field stuff (see Austin White). One needs to look no further than EMU to see what happens when a losing product is put on the field year after year. Empty stadium because of years of a lousy product. They meet their attendance marks by vendors buying large chunks of tickets. We are well on our way to EMU status. I love the Saturday football experience but will no longer spend my $ on what is being put on the field by CMU.

  12. Central will never be more than a stepping stone for collegiate coaches. It’s just not a place you go if you want to create a program at a nationally elite level. A great season at CMU will always be a minor bowl game and a token top 25 spot in a poll. As great as the LeFevor years were, that’s as high as it will ever get at CMU. And more likely the coach that creates that success is going to leave. Honestly, I’d love to see CMU go to the 1AA level (or whatever it’s called now). It’s a level CMU can compete at and watching a team advance through the tourney is a thrill.

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