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
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