Athletics says sponsors will help football attendance reach Division 1 compliance

Deputy Director of Athletics Derek van der Merwe confirmed Sunday the football program will be in compliance with NCAA Division 1 attendance requirements this season.

But it did not happen without help from sponsors.

“Most of our sponsors are our advertisers,” van der Merwe said. “If you look in the stadium, you can see all the advertising boards we have up.  Most of those agreements come with tickets.”

Van der Merwe said when Central Michigan negotiates agreements, it has a firm understanding of how many tickets must be involved.

“What we did is we looked at the total number of season tickets purchased, kind of estimated a student-count average through the year and also looked at our paid averages that we’ve seen,” he said. “And on a game-by-game basis, as you get down to the final games, we can make adjustments based upon agreements with sponsors as long as sponsors agree to it.”

Last season, CMU did not hit the 15,000 attendance mark — the number needed once every two years to remain Division 1 eligible.

But van der Merwe said CMU did not have to reach out to sponsors as much to hit the 15,000 mark in 2011 because it knew it could wait until this year to remain compliant.

To reach compliance, the school will use the paid-attendance system, rather than the head-count system — two methods the NCAA allows.

Although CMU will meet the attendance benchmark, the announced attendance of 7,223 at Saturday’s game is alarming. It was the lowest in at least eight years and students are noticing the sparse crowds.

“It was pathetic,” said Romeo sophomore Lindsey Garbarino.  “It was so nice out.  I feel like people should have been there.”

She said her and several other friends came at the beginning of the game, but left after a few minutes.

“We went into the game, and there wasn’t anybody there,” Garbarino said.  “It wasn’t fun, so we left.”

Rochester senior John Pincura said there needs to be more motives to come to the game.

“I don’t think CMU does enough to get people in the stands,” he said. “And our tickets are free.  I feel like we are still feeling the repercussions from three years ago (when CMU went 12-2). Since then, it has not been at that level except for the (Michigan) State weekend.”

Pincura suggested selling alcohol at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, which would help draw a larger crowd.

But Director of Athletics Dave Heeke told CM Life last October that there were no plans to allow alcohol to be sold in the near future and van der Merwe said Sunday there were still no plans to do so.

Instead, van der Merwe said he hopes bringing back a winning culture will help increase attendance.

“I think this a team that has improved, has grown and is putting us in a position to be successful,” he said. “We are playing for bowl-eligibility. Coach Enos is clearly starting to push this program to success and starting to lay down the building blocks.”