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Big Ten in Two Dimensions: Fan Cutout Sales Trending

Paul Steinbach

Big Ten football fandom is all about two dimensions this season. With a ban on live attendance as the conference prepares to open its delayed schedule Oct. 24, at least six member schools are selling fan cutouts to occupy seats during games and help fill depleted athletic department coffers.

The University of Illinois announced Oct. 1 that it was selling cutouts in three different packages. The Prime Seats packages, seated in East Main sections 104-106 of Memorial Stadium, will cost $99. The Sideline Seats package (East Main sections 101-103 and 107-109) will cost $77 and the End Zone packages (seated in the horseshoe and north end zone student section) will cost $50.

According to the Illini Inquirer at 247sports, those who purchase Fighting Illini Fan Cutouts will be in the drawing for weekly Illinois Athletics Prize Packs and an image of the cutout in the stadium will be sent by email to see its placement. Fans can add the signature of head coach Lovie Smith to the cutout for $50, which covers shipping back to the purchaser after the season concludes.

Rules for the cutouts include no commercial advertisements, no third-party branding, no additional text on the cutouts, no political content, no lewd content and no alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco or firearms/weapons.

The University of Minnesota likewise announced a cutout program Oct. 1, with $50 general public and $25 student options, plus plenty of tips for purchasers.

According to the university's athletics website, these include:

It's All about You

  • No group photos; each photo should include only one individual.
  • No selfies; please have someone take your photograph for you.
  • Keep your arms down and in front of your body.
  • Face forward; no side profiles.

Dress Game-Day Ready

  • Throw on your best Gopher gear and strike a pose!
  • No other NCAA or professional sports teams' logos or brands will be allowed.
  • No advertising, business, or political brands allowed. 
  • If you wear glasses, tilt your head slightly to avoid a glare and/or the camera flash.

Quality Matters

  • Use appropriate lighting. Make sure there are not bright lights behind you from mirrors, windows, or light fixtures.
  • Make sure the photo is not blurry or distorted in any way.

Choose the Right Background

  • Locate a solid color wall, different from the color shirt you are wearing. Use sheets, towels, or blankets as a backdrop if needed.
  • Maintain your privacy! Keep personal or private information out of the background.

This week alone, conference rivals Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State got into the cutout market.

According to Michigan State athletics, cutouts cost $75 for prime stadium locations, $55 for season-ticket holders, and $50 for students, Jr. Spartan Club members and pets. An extra $25 is required if fans want their cutout returned to them after the season. 

Penn State is offering a $10 discount on each cutout in purchases of two or more on pricing of $85 and $65 for active students. Cutouts will be able to be picked up at Beaver Stadium free of additional charge after the season ends, according to onwardstate.com

A similar price structure exists at Michigan, which announced its program Thursday.

"This season, the Michigan Athletic Department is offering fans an opportunity to join the Wolverines in the Big House even if they can’t physically be at the game," the athletic department said on its website "You can get a cutout of yourself, a friend, a family member or even your pet placed in an open seat in either the north or south end zone at Michigan Stadium. The earlier you purchase, the closer to the field your cutout will be. Proceeds from the cutouts will support University of Michigan student-athletes."

Michigan included these frequently asked questions:

How many cutouts can I purchase?
For non-students, there is no limit on the number you can purchase. However, the season ticket holder promo/coupon code is only valid on the first order. Students may only purchase two (2) cutouts at the student rate.

Where will my fan cutout be located?
All cutouts will be located in the north and south end zone of Michigan Stadium. The earlier you purchase, the closer to the field your cutout will be located. Student cutouts will be in the designated "Student Section." Unfortunately, we cannot take requests for specific placement.

Will my cutout be on TV?
We cannot guarantee that your cutout will be seen on television or as part of any broadcast.

Can I submit a pic in a military uniform?
Yes, absolutely!

Can I have multiple people on one cutout?
No, only one (1) person per cutout. Photos with multiple people will be rejected.

Can I submit a pic of my pet for my cutout?
Yes, all pets are welcome!

What happens if my photo is rejected?
Fans will be notified if their photo is rejected and given an opportunity to resubmit if there is appropriate time prior to the deadline, but Michigan Athletics will not be obligated to provide the purchaser a refund if a submitted photo is rejected for any reason.

Will multiple cutouts in the same order be sat together?
While we cannot guarantee exact locations, we will do our best to seat multiple submissions together. However, cutouts must be purchased at the same time to be placed together.

How is the team going to let me know where to find my cutout?
Photos of all the fan cutouts will be posted to a photo album on the Michigan Athletics Facebook page (@umichathletics). The photos will be posted by Monday following each home game.

Do I get my fan cutout back and if so how?
If you elected to add shipping when you purchased your cutouts, your cutout will be mailed to you after the season (by the end of January 2021). For students, we will send out an email at a later date with details regarding pick-up.

What if the season gets canceled?
All payments made to purchase cutouts are final and such payments shall not be refunded for any reason, including, but not limited to, the delay, suspension, cancellation, or early termination of the 2020 season

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