More on how EMU is playing the attendance game in 2010
Hidden behind the innocuous-sounding title, “EMU Helps Local Schools Score Extra Money“, and the “Education First Ticket Stimulus Program”, I found an announcement from EMU athletics that goes a long way toward explaining their attendance strategy for the ongoing football season.
Remember that NCAA rules require a school to post an average home game attendance of 15,000 or more once within any two-year period in order to remain in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest level of NCAA football.
Remember also that EMU posted an average attendance of 5,016 fans per game in 2009, — lower than 25 Division II schools and one Division III school (St. John’s, in Minnesota) — so the 2010 attendance must average at least 15,000 per game.
Remember also that, at the MAC Football Media Preview, EMU Athletic Director Derrick Gragg said:
“The university has been in compliance because the rule states they can have 15,000 in either actual or paid attendance, and we have been able to do it with paid attendance, so that makes it fine what the NCAA.”
Actual or paid attendance, got that?
So here’s the solution.
Corporate sponsors, such as (according to the announcment) Pepsi Co., pre-purchased EMU football tickets for the season. The EMU announcement didn’t say, but I’d be willing to guess it was at least 50,000, and maybe the whole 75,000 (15,000 per game average needed times five home games) just to be safe. EMU can count tickets purchased, as long as they were sold for at least one-third of the highest normal price; since the highest normal price is $9, tickets sold for at least $3 count. (Remember the voucher packs? 10 tickets for $30 is $3 per ticket, so they all count, even if only some get used.) Then the corporate sponsors give the tickets away. In this case, 10,000 tickets to the Central Michigan game were given away to local schools. I’d heard about a giveaway from a friend, but I hadn’t realized the scale. Then, to (theoretically) ensure the tickets get used, EMU promises to pay the schools $1 per ticket used. The tickets have special bar codes that, when scanned, give EMU a record of how many tickets were redeemed from each school.
Did it work? Yes and no.
Yes, because the “attendance” for Saturday’s game was over 20,000, bringing the season average to date over the required 15,000. Yes, because surely some of those tickets did get used, resulting in a decent (by Rynearson Stadium standards) crowd.
No, because at least anecdotally the tickets were not exactly a hot item. Remember that friend I mentioned? Sunday morning, they had a stack of unused tickets.