WVU Season Ticket Numbers Holding Steady
MORGANTOWN, W.VA.–The enthusiasm behind new head football coach Neal Brown has apparently helped West Virginia University buck its recent trend of falling season ticket numbers.
The Mountaineers haven’t necessarily seen a sudden spike in season ticket sales, but after suffering through seven straight years of continually decreasing season ticket totals, this year that number is leveling off.
WVU officials reported this week that they are approaching 25,000 season tickets sold for this year, which is the same pace the Mountaineers were on last year at this time. The price of WVU’s season tickets is unchanged this year at $365 for the six games, though as in the past, premium seats also require a further financial obligation with a donation of varying amounts to the Mountaineer Athletic Club.
The fact that West Virginia is holding steady in terms of season football ticket sales instead of continuing to decline is basically a win in today’s world. WVU sold slightly more than 37,300 season tickets in 2012 coming off the 10-3 season in 2011 that was capped by the 70-33 Sugar Bowl win over Clemson. But West Virginia’s season ticket figures have dropped annually ever since, hitting a low of 25,000 last year, which is 33-percent decrease of where it was seven years before.
Now the decline has abated for this season, as WVU will maintain its 25,000 season ticket level.
The drop in ticket sales is an issue facing nearly every college program. Even Clemson, which won the national championship last year with a 15-0 record, failed to sellout a single home game in 2018, which is the first time that’s happened since 2009. Overall, Tiger average attendance per home game was down 370 from 2017 to 2018, despite its perfection on the field.
It’s happening in many other locations as well. The PAC-12’s average attendance, according to a story by USA Today, was its lowest since 1982, and the Big Ten’s was its lowest since 1993. The SEC’s attendance in 2018 declined 1.2 percent from 2017, which in itself was a 3.2 percent decrease from 2016.
“It’s great to have the TV contracts and the revenue that comes with that, but we’re all dealing with the decline with fan attendance,” WVU director of athletics Shane Lyons said recently in an interview with the Blue & Gold News. “How do you balance that? I think fans are saying that maybe they don’t want to go to all six or seven home games in a season, and will go to just two or three instead. They’ll stay home and watch the others on TV.
“As athletic directors, we are trying enhance the fan experience at the stadium to make sure people continue to come to our events. You can’t sit at home and replicate the experience of being in the stadium. We want people to come, but we understand that people invest a lot of time and money to come to our games.”
Though season ticket sales have been in decline at WVU in recent years, it average attendance at home games has remained fairly strong, which indicates many may not be opting for season tickets but are still buying single-game tickets. Last year West Virginia’s reported attendance for its six home games was an average of 58,158. That was the best for the Mountaineers in over a decade, last topped by the 60,400 WVU averaged in 2007. Only five times in their history have the Mountaineers reported a better average attendance figure than they did last year – 2007 (60,400), 2006 (58,773), 1988 (60,649), 1989 (60,497) and 1984 (58,548). Of course it should be noted that not all historical attendance figures are created equal. For many years, West Virginia’s announced attendance figures reflected the number of people who actually came through the gates. Several seasons ago WVU switched to what was more the industry standard and began using the number of tickets sold for its announced attendance figures. National studies show that the actual figure of those in the stadiums can be as much as 10 to 20 percent lower than the announced attendance based on ticket sales for the Power 5 programs, and considerably more for many of the Group of 5 schools.
“We want to make people excited about the product we put on the fields and courts,” said Lyons. “Not that it’s the end all, be all, but winning cures a lot of problems. People like to come out and watch a winner. That helps.”
The enthusiasm provided by a popular new coach can help as well.