How are colleges handling their well-documented struggles getting fans through the turnstiles at athletic events?
There are myriad strategies for engagement that schools are employing — everything from free admission for students (UConn), to loyalty programs (Alabama), to attempts to improve fan experience by selling alcohol in collegiate venues (lots of places). Low attendance isn’t just a concern from a revenue perspective, either.
As Miami (Ohio) University student newspaper The Miami Student reports, failing to meet certain attendance thresholds can actually affect a program’s ability to remain in a particular division. With that being the case, some schools dealing with low attendance will purchase thousands of tickets to their own games in order to maintain their divisional status.
At Miami, a student reporter found that the athletic department purchases approximately 10,000 tickets per football game, in order to meet the NCAA requirements for Division-I status. The bylaw requires that FBS schools meet a number of criteria, including an average of "at least 15,000 in actual or paid attendance for all home football contests over a rolling two-year period.”
As The Miami Student reports, the phrase “actual or paid” is the operable phrase in this case, as actual attendance via scanned ticket entry was much lower than announced attendance. Miami, of course, isn’t alone in deploying this gambit — schools across the country often report higher attendance figures for football games than scanned entry, including big name programs.
In Miami’s case, the school uses money collected from student fees to finance additional ticket purchases. The Miami Student reported that for the 2019 fiscal year, each student paid an average of more than $1,000 in intercollegiate athletics fees.