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Central Michigan football season ticket sales lowest since 2006 season

Signifying a possible shift in support from the casual fan base, season ticket sales for the Central Michigan football team in 2013 are at their lowest levels since the 2006 season.

Down significantly from the record 4,880 season tickets purchased last season, 3,453 tickets were sold for the five-game home football schedule according to figures released to Central Michigan Life by the CMU athletics department. That’s an 11-percent decrease from the average over the last eight seasons.

“When you look at these numbers, the thing that I get is that they are very comparable,” said Craig Willey, associate athletic director for the Chippewa Athletic Fund, in charge of helping raise money for CMU athletic programs.

“For us, student attendance and single-game sale is huge. Even when you look at our championship team of 2009, that’s where we have had our most success in attendance.”

The numbers provided to CM Life date back to 2006, when the university sold 3,809 season tickets following CMU’s first winning season since 1998. Season ticket sales increased again in 2007, to 3,817, and 2008, to 3,911.

CMU won the Mid-American Conference championship and appeared in consecutive Motor City Bowls in 2006 and 2007.

The figure dropped to 3,707  in 2009, following an 8-4 season and a third consecutive Detroit bowl appearance, losing 24-21 to Florida Atlantic in the re-named Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. It fell again in 2010, the first year for current head coach Dan Enos, to 3,656.

The biggest gains came in 2011 and 2012, in 12- and 16-percent increases, respectively, in anticipation of a seven-game home schedule in ’12 that included a game against Michigan State that drew a Kelly/Shorts Stadium record of 35,127. Only season-ticket holders and members of the Chippewa Club and 1100 Club, donor groups under the Chippewa Athletic Fund umbrella, were guaranteed access to tickets for the MSU game.

Additionally, season ticket holders in 2011 were also guaranteed access to purchasing tickets to the marquee MSU game.

Following last season, in which CMU started 3-6 but rallied to win the final three games of the regular season and beat Western Kentucky, 24-21, in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, numbers fell below normal. CMU entered the 2013 season with a 13-24 record under head coach Dan Enos.

Willey declined to blame falling numbers strictly on the football team’s performance, pointing to economic conditions, an aging season-ticket base that may have retired and is not in the region all season and an unfavorable five-game home schedule as possible reasons for the decline.

New this year, “as a gift,” CMU provided all season ticketholders with cushioned seat backs at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. They have also introduced a program that matches a season ticketholder with a Chippewa Athletic Fund member they can contact for additional ticket requests and assistance.

The hope, of course, is to get them to donate to the CAF, which raised a record $1,342,401.55 for the 2012-13 year. The 1,100 Club, set up just for the football program, raised $395,220.41 during that same period, the highest amount since 2009-10.

Willey said the new initiatives were not the result of lower-than-anticipated season ticket numbers, just to “provide better customer service and strengthen relationships.”

“It’s for us to get to know people better on a one-and-one basis,” Willey said. “Our external relations strategies, it’s one piece … and it’s an important piece. But if we have a crowd of 25,000 on a gameday, you can see all of those other pieces that make it. Most people just don’t jump in as season ticketholders. It’s how we attract single-game ticket buyers, how do we capture their information, re-target them and get them to come back.”

The football team, which has started the season 1-4, drew a crowd of 18,210 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium for the Sept. 7 home opener against New Hampshire. The crowd for the Sept. 21 home game against Toledo fell to 15,136.

Athletics director Dave Heeke was not made available for comment.

CMU football season ticket sales

2006: 3,809

2007: 3,817

2008: 3,911

2009: 3,707

2010: 3,656

2011: 4,108

2012: 4,880

2013: 3,453

Contact Aaron McMann: aaron.mcmann@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann.

8 Comments

  1. Hardly shocking, though the predictive tone is crystal clear: CMU’s once heralded Football program is in triage with no physician in the room.

    Two visible programs have removed their head coaches already: Lane Kiffin at USC and Paul Pasqualoni at Connecticut who took Michigan to the wire two weeks ago. Kiffin was literally escorted off the airport bus in Tempe.

  2. jeff topolewski says:

    people are speaking with their wallets. There were so many empty chairback seats open at Toedo it was unbelieveable. People are tired of this staff and want a change and I do not blame them for staying home.

    • Steven Ball says:

      I completely agree Jeff. I am a season ticket holder and was unable to attend the Toledo game due to a scheduling conflict, but I heard the stadium was a ghost town.

      More to the point, the fact that homecoming tickets are being discounted tells me that they can’t even sell out one of the biggest games of the year. Quite frankly that is sad.

  3. Having been a season ticket holder since 2009, I did not renew them for one simple reason this season; the product that Enos/Heeke are putting on the field. I am no longer willing to spend my time and $ on what they are presenting to us as the fan. I found it interesting that after last season they did not do an end of year survey to season ticket holders to see what they thought of the football experience at the stadium as they had done after the other seasons I was a ticket holder. Perhaps they did not really want to know. All involved in this program never want to address the true problem. The falling numbers are directly related to poor performance! Get a clue! The only reason that the 2011 and 2012 numbers are inflated was the MSU game. You had to be a season ticket holder for both years in order to buy individual tickets to that game. Thanks to CMU Life for the article. It just shows the fans what we already know. Season tickets are down as is all attendance. I am sure anyone who watched the first two home games or those who were in attendance would not buy into the attendance figures that are being reported.

  4. NO! What took so freakin’ long?!

  5. My husband and I did not renew our season tickets because of the poor coaching. The favoritism that is being shown by the QB coach is sickening. Radclif was left in for two seasons despite poor performance. Rush throws THREE interceptions and doesn’t get pulled but Niznak gets a total of 4 drives and never gets to see the field again? Apparently Watts has a pet! I am so dissapointed in this coaching staff.

    • Enos and Watts are going with Cooper because that is the only way they save their jobs. They will say that Tipton and Kater were lost for the season and they had to go with a freshman QB. Just be patient with us.

  6. Fans don’t attend for one simple reason- CMU football is tough to watch! I had been a season ticket holder for six years. Pulled back this year and I am protesting until we find a new coach!

    Not going to these crappy games will eventually send a message of change!

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