Look at the comment section on any news story regarding student ticket policies, especially from the MLive articles above. The venomous comments from non-affiliated fans who pay for tickets disgust me. Michigan Students have been called “over entitled brats” “bad fans” and “fair weather” in some of these comment boxes in terms of complaining about new ticket policies. Name-calling aside, there have been a lot of changes to Michigan’s Season Ticket Policies in Basketball and Football, and I am here to clear the air.
If you flash back to just a year ago, students were just peachy in terms of buying student tickets for the three major sports at Michigan, Football, Basketball and Ice Hockey. It was a simple system, students paid their hard earned dollars and in return were given a guaranteed seat to cheer on their fellow Wolverines at The Big House, Crisler Center and Yost. Then the brain trust at the Athletic Department went and turned everything on it’s head. First was the change to the long-standing football ticket seating policy, and the latest (and far more aggressive) dagger in the students backs is the new basketball seating policy. First however, comes football.
For as long as I could remember, Michigan Football’s old seating policy was something that more or less “worked”. Students were assigned seats by the amount of credit hours they had at Michigan, meaning freshmen sat at the top of the bowl and worked their way down the rows until senior year when they would have a chance of being in the front twenty rows. It was a system everyone was familiar with until it was destroyed this past off season. The Athletic Department sent out a condescending email last November after the Northwestern game showing the upper annals of the bowl somewhat empty at kickoff (about 20 rows, enough to be noticeable, but nothing terrible). In defense of the department, it looks awful on television to not have a full student section at kickoff,
but in defense of the students, it was a beautiful November day and everyone was enjoying the second to last game of the season by tailgating and making memories with friends outside of Michigan Stadium. Herein lies problem number one, the Athletic Department is concerned with doing their job, which is everything regarding the game itself. A Michigan football game is a production that takes hundreds, if not thousands of people working as a part of a well-oiled machine. What they do not realize is as students, the game is the centerpiece, but there is so much more to game day than the game. There is waking up at the crack of dawn to down awful beer, listening to loud music, hanging out with friends
and making new friends. Some of the greatest moments I have had in college came from tailgating football games. Now I did make an effort to arrive on time, but yes, even I was late every so often. While the reaction to the new seating policy was swift at first, I think the student population has begun to accept it for what it is. Now there still are three major issues I find with it.
1. I am being provided with an inferior product half the season. Now due to television, money and other factors, the scheduling in college football has gone to crap. In the Bo Schembechler days, Michigan played titans of college football like UCLA, Washington, Miami and Notre Dame in non-conference games. Since 2009, my freshman year, here are Michigan’s home match ups in non-conference play.
2009: Western Michigan, #18 Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Delaware State.
2010: Connecticut, UMass, Bowling Green
2011: Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, San Diego State
2012: #2 Alabama (In Dallas, Texas), Air Force, UMass
2013: Central Michigan, #14 Notre Dame, Akron
For three games a year, at MINIMUM, I am paying for games against inferior opposition, and the ticket costs keep rising. Losing the Notre Dame rivalry only magnifies this. The Big Ten isn’t what it used to be, and adding Maryland and Rutgers puts two more cupcakes on the schedule. The games may turn out to be good, but when they are scheduled, they are envisioned to be blowouts. This is a fundamental issue in college football, but it is still a qualm I have as a paying customer.
2. My first two years, I sat at the top of the bowl, either underneath the scoreboard or in the corner, and my seniority that I built up over three years was taken away without notice. I was inherently promised better seats year after year until that was taken away from me this season. There was no student input and barely any warning. I did have the choice to not purchase tickets, but there was no way I was skipping senior year football season. I feel that using a system akin to that of Wisconsin would work better. Wisconsin has their sections divided by year. The two best middle sections go to the seniors, the two surrounding it to juniors and so on. This promises the upperclassmen the best viewing points, even if they have to go higher. I have sat in rows 72 and 62 for the two games and I am not mad about that, I have been able to see the game and sit with my friends, and that is what counts.
3. They raised ticket prices by 23.1 percent. From $32.50/game to $40/game. Now this price raise is for less games than two years ago when similar opponents came to town (Notre Dame, Nebraska, Ohio State being marquee games on the slate), and for one less game at home (due to the UConn scheduling fiasco). Now from what has been said, this increase is to pay for remodels of the two campus recreational facilities, the central campus rec building (CCRB) and the Intramural Sports Buidlin (IMSB). Now, both gyms are in dire need of upgrades, especially the CCRB weight room. However, here is where the hypocrisy sets in. I wrote two weeks ago about Stephen M. Ross’ magnanimous donation to the university, a whopping $200 million dollars to a total of 10 percent of the student population. What I want to know, is why am I, as a student who graduates in May, paying for upgrades I will not see? More importantly, they also added a $65 dollar fee to tuition per semester to also cover the upgrades. There are many Michigan donors, but they do not care about the well-being of students unless the students pay for it. Michigan legend Fielding Yost said a sound body and a sound mind are important, and that is why he built the IM Building and the old gym that was in the diag. I think Yost is rolling over in his grave knowing that the students are being done dirty like this. MLive had a good article summing up different viewpoints of the student body.
Overall, the new football policy is an adjustment, but for the Central Michigan and Notre Dame games, it worked. The student section was filled and hype for kickoff and everyone had a great time. Prior to the Akron game, the team announced ANOTHER change in the policy. When students arrived at the game, they would be given a ticket with a specific row, seat and number. Meaning students line up with their tickets to be given a seat. Similar to the old system, it does not work. Once a student is in and can find their friends, they just leave to get food or go to the bathroom by borrowing a friends ticket. For example, if I am in section 27 and my friends are in 29, I would maneuver my way through the rows to 29, grab one of their tickets to go get a slice of pizza, and come back. The ushers don’t really care as long as the ticket says the proper section number. The new addition to the system didn’t really do anything. I just wonder why the Athletic Department puts more effort on themselves instead of just saving the front 22 rows for early birds and then just letting the rest of the section fill in organically. The current method just makes more work for everyone.
Then, for the home game vs Akron, a noon kickoff, it all hit the fan.
Quite pathetic, right? There were three contributing factors to general admission absolutely failing during the Akron Game.
1. It was a noon kickoff. The students much prefer 3:30 kickoffs as it allows time to tailgate and have fun and then head to the game. Obviously the blame for this falls on no one but the TV networks, and there is no solution.
2. It was Yom Kippur. The Jewish holiday definitely had a mild effect on attendance numbers, as I did have multiple peers who sold their tickets or did not use them as they were attending services during the game.
3. It was Akron. That entire week the entire student body assumed that Michigan would blow out Akron just like they blew out Central Michigan. This lessened the appeal of attending the game for many.
For the Akron game, the University did their best to try and compel students into lining up, including free Tim Horton’s donuts donated by Coach Hoke (they tasted awful by the way, no glaze, no sprinkles, they were PLAIN!). The students however, were disinterested, leaving this embarrassing turnout at kickoff. I was told that in the Big Ten Network production truck, the cameras had to adjust their angles to as to not show the huge gap. Michigan almost lost that abomination of a game, and my friends and I all agreed if they had, the athletic department would have sent another passive-aggressive email claiming it was the students’ fault for not providing a home field advantage. In reality, it was Devin Gardner’s fault because he loves turnovers. However, a much worse email came the following week.
I have been told this theory is some kind of athletic department Illuminati nonsense, but I think they may be interconnected.
Last Tuesday, at a Central Student Government Meeting, Chief Marketing Officer Hunter Lochmann announced every student’s worst nightmare, a change to the basketball seating policy. Most likely due to the bandwagon effect of making the National Championship Game, the athletic department sold 4,500 season basketball tickets (a 67% increase over 2012-13). Now that sounds great right? Incorrect, the student section only holds 3,000 people. The worst part about this announcement was it was AFTER students bought their season tickets. 4,500 packages at $200 each is $900,000. This athletic department cares more about money than the students these sports are played by and exhibited in front of. Now, Crisler Center had a chance to be a basketball mecca with “The Fresh Five” consisting of Spike Albrecht, Nik Stauskus, Caris LeVert, Glen Robinson III, and Mitch McGary, in addition to new recruit Derrick Walton. These young men can make Crisler a fun place to watch Michigan basketball, but here is the problem. The Maize Rage bleachers and section 130 are the only parts of the arena where students are near the court. These sections hold about 900 students, after that, they are sent into the upper deck of Crisler, fairly far from the action and it is nowhere near as fun (I always got there early to avoid this). The problem is not only there being only 900 kids near the floor, but Michigan is dropping the ball by not expanding the student section at least temporarily. With the students up in the 200 level seats, the home court advantage is reduced. Also, Crisler has no students sitting behind either hoop (130 is to the left of the north end of the court). There are alumni and fans sitting behind both ends of the court. Alumni and fans are great, they sometimes even
donate, but you know what they don’t do, get excited and cheer. They sit there in their seats watching and maybe golf clap or stand up every so often. The Maize Rage had the potential to be incredible, but instead, Lochmann and company decided to go in the opposite direction. Students will now have to claim games in “pods” every few weeks, and getting tickets to the Michigan State game will be judged on best attendance. Meaning I may go to every game and I am still not guaranteed a Michigan State ticket. You know what the Athletic Department fails to realize? Life happens outside of Crisler. I may claim tickets for a game, but a conflict may come up, homework may catch up, there are many different factors that happen. I do my best to sell my ticket, but if I don’t, my presence isn’t missed. The Maize Rage is full every single game, but now, I have to decide early, and if a student claims two games and doesn’t attend, they can’t claim games in the next pod. If a student claims four games and no shows, they revoke your tickets AND keep your money. Now while it is a punitive measure, it’s also ridiculous. I am taking the protest road. I set down $200 dollars of my hard earned money in April expecting a 16 game home slate, but now, I am going to claim my full refund and
pick up tickets from friends who are selling or buy tickets on StubHub. As a student, money is tight, and having this unleashed on me AFTER I paid for my tickets is not fair. It is a middle finger to the students. The Athletic Department’s concern with people who pay more for tickets is fair, but it also proves they are more business oriented instead of caring about the student body. AD Dave Brandon is a businessman, but I think he needs to realize that there is a human element to this as well. Part of the claim of the change is that only 46.1% of students who had tickets to games actually attended. Now this is just an average, obviously like football, students see less appeal in attending games against inferior opposition. That is just a fact, however, as a student who went to every game possible last year, I feel like I am paying for the actions of others. It raises the age old question, why should all pay for the transgressions of a few?
Now there is the last event of Michigan’s week of weird. The skywriting fiasco. The Michigan Athletic Department spent a few thousand bucks on a skywriter to write “GO BLUE” over Southeast Michigan with no specific targets in mind” (yeah right). The skywriter end up above East Lansing on Sep. 14. Now I understand that the Athl. Dept. can spend their money how they see fit, but this was just a stupid misappropriation of funds. It also left some egg on their face considering students feel like “wow, they raised prices and took away my guaranteed basketball seats so they can pay for a sky writer!” Absolutely deplorable. This cash hungry department just received $100 million dollars and takes students money for season tickets, and the students get nothing back. Capitalism at it’s finest
here folks. Now Dave Brandon is a good AD, however he has been scapegoated for many of these policy changes when it is the people working under him. The reasoning is simple, it is human nature for us to find an authority figure and blame them. Personally, I harbor all of my criticism for these policies at Lochmann, (yeah, I’m shooting the messenger). My biggest issue is these two policies were launched with no warning and no input from the student body. No transition period, nothing, just a flat out rule change, take it or leave it. As the proprietors of student season tickets, they are completely within their rights to do so, but it doesn’t mean it’s not going to ruffle the feathers of the student body. As students, we have our consumer rights of not buying tickets, but it will not be enough of a dent to change policies.
One of my professors, noted author John U. Bacon, wrote an article on May 3rd of this year discussing the athletic department’s new football policy, and I echo his thoughts. Michigan athletics are leaving the students behind. In this article, I echoed some of his points, because they hold true. Being a fifth year senior, I feel shafted, jilted, and to an extent, robbed. I am glad to be graduating soon so I do not deal with these totalitarian policies. This school has taken so much money from me and my parents, and it is for bureaucratic reasons surrounding my transfer that I had to take a fifth year. I cannot wait to get out of Ann Arbor and not donate to this cash hungry school for a long time. David Brandon and Hunter Lochmann, whether they like it or not, are antagonizing and alienating the student body. With how I feel I have been treated, do they expect me to send my kids here in 20-30 years and buy season tickets for them? This is not how you groom future alumni as beneficiaries, this is how you make money now and lose money in the long term. So like I said in the title, Michigan athletics motto may be “We On” but join me my fellow students in saying, We Out.
For more information about the Basketball policies, read here
No new post next week, I’ll be in Nashville visiting a friend but I’ll be back in two weeks with a post giving my exact thoughts on Pay for Play vs the NCAA.
Jam of The Week – Tuscan Leather by Drake