Football attendance well below Division I mark, had close call in 2009
The football attendance report to the NCAA from Central Michigan athletics was nearly 5,000 people short of the Division I benchmark needed once every two years.
The average attendance was 10,466 last season, while the average announced attendance at the game was 15,291. Only 4,473 of those people-per-game actually paid for tickets.
The 5,993 average people that get in for free mostly consist of students and free tickets distributed to the public.
“We’ve tried to pump those tickets out,” Athletics Director Heeke said two weeks ago.
Near the end of the game against Ohio, CMU athletics announced an attendance of 12,127, but then reported to the NCAA that it was 4,336. The 7,791 difference between what CMU announced and reported to the NCAA was noticeable.
Heeke said two weeks ago CMU took the clicker count (from at the gate), student groups (band, cheerleaders, working staff and possibly players) and tickets distributed to calculate the gameday announced attendance.
Deputy Director of Athletics Derek van der Merwe said Monday, he and the ticket office are in charge of coming up with that number. But he said it was a estimate, that takes in account how many tickets were given out and 8,000 to 9,000 students they expect to come per game.
“That is what we’ve done historically and is the industry standard,” van der Merwe said.
When asked how the site estimate was calculated he responded, “unscientific.”
CMU nearly didn’t hit 15,000 during MAC title season
In 2009 when CMU went 9-2, won the Mid-American Conference and won the GMAC Bowl, the Chippewas barely met the NCAA attendance benchmark. They averaged 15,328 because of a weak home schedule, and a game the day after Thanksgiving.
Still, Nov. 11, 2009 CMU hosted Toledo on a Wednesday night three games away from going to the MAC Championship Game. CMU only reported an attendance of 13,584 to the NCAA. The announced attendance that night was 18,310.
That was with MAC title hopes on the line and superstars Dan LeFevour and Antonio Brown playing. Heeke has been outspoken about how weeknight games cripple attendance numbers, which was apparent that night.
The MAC has ramped up the scheduling of weeknight games to get on an ESPN station. CMU had three Saturday games in 2009 and two midweek games.
Two of the Saturday games did not exceed the 15,000 number as well as expected with a MAC Championship team. Against Alcorn State the attendance given to the NCAA was 15,665, and against Akron 15,302, both Saturday games.
Last season the schedule had three midweek games. At the two MAC midweek games CMU reported 4,336 and 5,834 attendances to the NCAA. The gameday announced crowds for both of those games were above 12,000.
The MAC doesn’t announce the conference schedule until the last week of February.