CMU athletics director: Calendar change would have 'dramatic' attendance ramifications for home-opening football games

The proposed academic calendar change that would start classes after Labor Day could have steep financial implications on the Central Michigan University athletics department.

Provost Gary Shapiro composed a report Friday highlighting the effects the new calendar would have on the university.

The football team has a home game scheduled before Labor Day in 2014 against North Carolina State and in 2015 against Oklahoma State, and, according to the report, it would cost more than $1 million combined to cancel those existing contracts.

“We may look at adjusting the game schedule as these were scheduled specifically as ‘major’ opening games for the season aligning with the start of the academic year,” Director of Athletics Dave Heeke wrote in an email Sunday.

The report also said, historically, CMU tries to schedule home football games the weekend before Labor Day. The Chippewas have opened their season at home six of the last eight seasons.

“It’s clear that playing home games early in the season is beneficial,” Heeke said.

Heeke said athletics could choose to keep the games on the schedule, but it is not ideal for the university’s students and fans.

“We could elect to keep the games,” he said. “However, it will have dramatic negative attendance ramifications, not to mention the fact that it would be very challenging for our student body to attend and enjoy this major event.”

For future scheduling, CMU would be forced to schedule away games during the first week of the season, which might impact ticket sales.

The calendar change would also require teams to be on campus for pre-season or vacation periods while school is not in session. In effect, expenses would increase for football, field hockey, soccer and men’s and women’s cross country for fall competition.

For the winter holiday, expenses would increase for men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, gymnastics and men’s and women’s track and field.

The report estimated it would cost an additional $100,000 to $120,000 if the new changes were to be implemented.

If the summer terms were to change under the new calendar, there is a concern they could extend into a pre-season practice period.

"Since student-athletes practice for extended periods of time during pre-season periods, this would create significant hardship and practice and enrollment hardships,” the report stated.

Also, if student-athletes need the summer terms in order to be eligible for competition, they would need to wait until all work from summer terms was completed and grades were posted.

Although some of these changes might not be ideal for the department of athletics, Heeke said they are working with campus leadership to help determine the direction for a future calendar.

“As with any changes in the academic calendar, there will be impacts on a variety of areas of campus,” he said. “However, the department of athletics will work with campus leadership following the determination of the appropriate direction for a future calendar.”


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