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Actual football attendance for 2010

December 19, 2010

OK, I think I’ve teased this out for as long as I can, so in this post, I’m finally going to report EMU’s actual, real, in-person, butts-in-seats, football attendance.

Opponent Reported attendance Actual attendance
Army 11,318 8,757
Central Michigan 20,348 8,043
Ohio* 16,753 6,799
Toledo** 25,860 7,001
Northern Illinois 5,147 1,404
Total 79,426 32,004
*Homecoming. **Band Day.

So there it is, but what’s it mean?

Well, let’s start by being honest with ourselves. We all knew that EMU was going to play this game. We knew it at the beginning of the year, because this was an NCAA audit year, and EMU had to average 15,000 tickets/attendees per game to stay in FBS. We knew it before the season started, when Derrick Gragg said as much at the MAC football media preview. We knew it at the Central Michigan game, the Ohio game, and the Toledo game, when the announced attendances were so obviously not reflective of the number of people there.

There are two items of real value here. The first is in considering when and by how much the numbers were gamed.

Date Opponent Over-reporting Over-reporting %
9/4/2010 Army 2561 29.25%
9/18/2010 Central Michigan 12305 152.99%
10/2/2010 Ohio* 9954 146.40%
10/30/2010 Toledo** 18859 269.38%
11/26/2010 Northern Illinois 3743 266.60%
*Homecoming. **Band Day.

The second item of value is in comparing the actual 2010 attendance to the actual 2009 attendance. The data also break out student attendance, so we’ll consider that as well.

Game Reported attendance Actual attendance Increase % Student attendance Increase %
Army/Army 14,499 11,318 13,114 8,757 -49.75% 3,892 2,691 -44.63%
Temple*/Central Michigan 3,364 20,348 3,162 8,043 60.69% 1,227 2,266 45.85%
Kent State**/Ohio* 2,401 16,753 2,437 6,799 64.16% 314 2,358 86.68%
Ball State/Toledo** 1,535 25,860 1,685 7,001 75.93% 355 843 57.89%
Western Michigan/Northern Illinois 3,281 5,147 3,587 1,404 -155.48% 531 195 -172.31%
Totals 25,080 79,426 23,985 32,004 25.06% 6,319 8,353 24.35%
*Homecoming. **Band Day.

Not only did overall attendance rise 25%, from 23,985 in 2009 to 32,004 in 2010, student attendance rose 24.35%, from 6,319 in 2009 to 8,353 in 2010. Interestingly, each of the middle three games had substantially higher attendance, both from students (45% to 86%) and overall (60% to 75%), while the first and last games saw notable drops on both counts (students: -44% and -172%; overall: -49% and -155%). My guess is that the 2009 attendance for the Army game was higher because of excitement around Ron English’s coaching debut, and much of that excitement was gone by the time Army returned in 2010. The final game of each season is more obvious: the Northern Illinois game was nearly two weeks later than the Western Michigan game (11/26, compared with 11/14), on the day after Thanksgiving when many people are travelling, visiting relatives, or working, on a very cold and windy day. I’m actually a little surprised to see that there were even 1,404 people at that game.

Now that we’ve got the numbers, I think it’s fair to say that, yes, EMU’s 2010 football marketing plan did work. They set goals of 10% attendance increases for students and overall, and more than doubled each goal. They needed to acheive the NCAA audit goal of 15,000 tickets per home game, and did. They also set a goal of improving the game experience and school spirit, and while I won’t comment on school spirit, I do think the game experience was better in 2010 than in 2009, though still not what it should be for a FBS program. With all that said, we’ll conclude this topic with a comment Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw made several years ago when discussing possible football marketing strategies.

“We haven’t tried winning yet. I think we’ll do that next.”

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Ralph permalink
    December 19, 2010 6:37 pm

    Over reporting? If they reported inflated numbers on paid attendance it would be over reporting.

    • December 20, 2010 7:37 am

      Sorry, let me be clear. In this post I used “overreporting” to refer to the difference between the reported “attendance” and the actual physical attendance.

      As you can see from the numbers, in 2009, the actual attendance was 95.6% of the reported attendance, which seems to me to be close enough to be accounted for by actual ticket-holders not showing up.

      In 2010, on the other hand, the actual physical attendance was just 40.3% of the reported attendance (based on tickets “sold”). Most of this difference comes from a massive ticket purchase (probably somewhere around 50,000 tickets) from PepsiCo, as a condition of their campus vending contract. Some of those tickets did get used, but most — easily more than 80% — went unused.

  2. January 19, 2011 11:49 am

    I was at the Army and Central games and it seemed like the stadium was fuller than its been in a while, so I think the numbers up there might be a little undersized. For the Central game, Igot one of the free tickets.

    But if the NCAA was going to enforce any of its rules….something tells me this will be the one they will enforce. Your dad getting money for you to attend a certain school…No problem. Selling your gold pants, rings, etc., No problem. Can’t get enough people to attend the games…oops….sorry. Although I think I have made the argument before that it might behoove Eastern to go down to Division IAA for Football but I would hate for this to be the reason.

    • January 19, 2011 12:22 pm

      Yeah, the big surprise to me was that I thought the attendance at the Army game was much more than the attendance at the Central Michigan game; I was surprised to see the numbers so close.

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