As I was reading Mlive’s game preview I noticed something interesting:
“Nebraska has averaged 15,312 fans per game since moving into the arena and ranks 11th nationally in average attendance.”
Now I’ve been to nearly every home Michigan basketball game for 8 years, and This brings up a good question. Why are Michigan fans not showing up to games? Obviously students don’t want to show up knowing that they’ll be relegated to the upper deck which creates massive sections of empty seats behind the basket. However, the entire stadium has far more empty seats than even last year. Against the #3 team in the country here were less than 9,000 people in there (My estimation. Official attendance records count the student tickets where nobody actually sat). It’s was even worse, albeit more understandable, against Minnesota.
My issue is that we shouldn’t have to be a top 10 team to sellout the stadium. We were in the Elite 8 and championship game as recent as 2 and 3 years ago. Are we as a fan base really that fair weather? I can’t get on board with the “we’re a football school” excuse, as all you have to do is look at Nebraska. They’ve been a 100% football school for as long as I can remember and yet here they are, nearly in the top 10 in attendance. Schools like Illinois, Iowa, and Purdue, despite being very mediocre in recent years always seemed to pack the place against most teams.
I know most of you already agree with me, so my real point to this thread is this: we likely have a new AD coming in who will be listening closer than usual at the beginning of his term to get a read on what the current issues are. What can they do to fix this issue of attendance? Obviously moving far more students to the lower bowl would be invaluable. I think the two sections to the left of the seperate lower deck student section would be great. This doesn’t help with the rest of the rest of the fans though. Do we just accept that we have late arriving and apathetic fans, or should we try a different marketing strategy to change it? I don’t know.
Xavier Simpson and Jordan Poole are consensus top 100 prospects. Simpson is ranked 23 spots higher than Burke was. Poole is ranked 7 spots lower than Stauskas and way higher than Hardaway and LeVert were. Both of them have been steadily rising in the rankings along with Watson. They are exactly the types of players people have been saying Beilein should recruit after the Battle fiasco.
I’d have to assume Nebraska’s tickets are cheaper at face value, but I’m pretty sure they’re much closer on the secondary markets. Michigan has enough fans that I don’t think competing with MSU is an issue. Maybe the Pistons have an impact, but their attendance is so so bad recently that it can’t be that big. I think overall you have a point though. Nebraska has NOBODY to compete with.
I just think that people don’t care about Michigan basketball. I’m young so I don’t know if that’s always been the case, but the decade plus of irrelevance has probably done enormous damage to the fan culture. And it may just be that Michigan fans in general are just not super passionate in the first place, let alone for what is the #2 sport. That certainly is the case for the students. Even when we are good, we don’t get students in the seats.
This is a chart I made using the publicly available student attendance data. For context, the Maize Rage bleacher seats is 403 seats and the section 130 corner section is 250 seats, making for 653 students in the lower bowl. The max student section size in 13-14 and 14-15 was 3000 when student tickets were oversold, it has been reduced to 2500 this year (as that is how many students bought tickets).
Is it that interesting to see a downward trend? The only line you should really look at are the Marquee games. When we were good, attendance increased. Since last year, it’s gone down. Attendance reflects the product on the court.
Basically what I’m getting from the downward trend is that attendance is completely dependent on the previous year’s success (which to me seems like a sign of an unknowledgeable/unpassionate fanbase), which would explain why attendance numbers are soooo much worse than last year despite Michigan having a solid year so far.
Thanks for writing this. Was thinking the same thing when Nebraska announced today’s game was a sellout. I grew up in AA but live on the West coast now, and circled 1/12 on my calendar as the prime game I would come back for this year, and was pretty surprised/saddened when I could find lower bowl first 5 rows sideline tix for 30$ before tip, and a quarter of the seats empty as you mentioned. Looking at other pricing, some of this is that people don’t view Maryland as a traditional rival, but come on…, 4 NBA players on that roster, top 3 rank, dicky V, conference favorite…
I don’t think its price, I don’t think its weather, I think better players would help but shouldn’t be a requirement if you look at comparable schools/situations. Michigan is a top 15 basketball program over its history based on the last time ESPN did this sort of historical rankings (NBA players, wins, conf titles, natl titles, etc), and I would bet that 90+% of the population has little to no idea. I do think that people make their religious affiliation to the football team, and that may not leave much emotional commitment to the other sports, save for pockets of die hard hockey and bball fans, but simply raising that awareness could go a long way.
I think even that knowledge being common and consistent within the maize rage may help. I was one of what I recall to be the founding members in 1998 (btw earlier than the founding year mentioned in the MR article in ESPNMag in 2013), and there was a lot more discussion at the time on the program’s legacy, the careers of the retired players, knowledge of and cheers for top recruits attending games, etc. That may still be the case, but may offer some fortification as well. And certainly give them all of sections 118 and 128 if it gives us any competitive advantage and raises interest.
Bear: NB has sucked; they got people–that was the purport of the OP. Read carefully. We have had great teams for several years until last year–the people are not there. The OP laid out the factual parameters of the discussion–refine your argument a little and maybe it has some cogency: lack of star power, etc. But. . . NB has that? Don’t think so. Definitely getting more kids into the lower part of the arena to obtain some excitement would help. Let fogeys like me sit higher up.
As a grad I love me some Michigan, but it annoys the heck out of me that people don’t go to basketball games.
Now I’ll admit: I’m a naive kid. I’m choosing between Michigan, North Carolina, and Texas for college next year. All three have similar academics, city atmosphere, etc. I would NEVER pick a college for a reason like watching athletics, but to say it hasn’t crossed my mind that UNC gives some of the best seats in the house to the majority of students would be a lie. It sounds great even if you can’t get there 5 hours early. It just wouldn’t be fun to sit in the upper deck away from the main section where it’s basically like being a normal fan. I can’t even blame current students for not showing up. Not only that, But Michigan’s student tickets are far more expensive than the other colleges I’ve visited. Pittsburgh has a very similar program as us in terms of success in the last decade, yet their student tickets are completely free. The other schools I’ve gotten into such as Arizona and NC State are the same way, cheap tickets with tons available in good sections.
I choose not to over think what’s going on. The graph shows, the fans showed up when we were good the previous year. I would love to see what that graph looks like stretched out to 2012.
A big reason on why we have struggled is because of recruiting. Put better players on the floor, and attendance will go up.
The entire state of Nebraska are Nebraska fans. They live and die for Big Red. Sports wise, it’s all that state has. It should surprise no one, they are able to fill their stadiums. They are the only show in the entire state. If Michigan wants to fill their stadium at the same rate Nebraska does, they have to put better players on the floor. Sell a better product.
JB has reset the Average Michigan Fan’s expectation. When that expectation is not met, attendance pays.
Honestly one of my main takeaways from the graph is that we’ve never gotten close to filling the student section (AKA fans don’t really show even when we’re good). Maybe I’ll add a “max possible” line to indicate that.