Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Add one more alumna's voice the swell of discontent with Michigan Football

The Alumni Association posted an article about alumni reactions to the Athletic Department announcement that they will lower 2015 student season ticket prices to $175. It seems that we alumni weren't shy in voicing our opinions about that and other issues plaguing the football program of late. The association was able to break down the comments into four main themes. The alumni thought that: 

  • Students were being overcharged
  • Regular season ticket prices and the mandatory seat donation are too high for the product received
  • The corporatization of football has gone too far
  • Weak schedules and seating priorities are a problem
As someone who gave up a pair of season tickets long ago, I can relate to many of their concerns. I relinquished my tickets before the time of seat "donations" and prices that exceeded $60/ticket. I had to work and it was hard to make it to all the games. And not all the games were with quality opponents. Perhaps that pathetic C+ I earned in Econ 201 belies my true understanding of basic economic principles. I got enough out of that class to understand that plenty of people would pay to see a top opponent at any price, but no one would give face value to see a disemboweling of the then weaker teams like Minnesota, Northwestern, and Purdue. Every game like that which I couldn't attend meant I lost money. I finally made the tough decision and didn't renew them. I knew I'd probably never get them back. At the time, thousands stood behind me waiting for my empty seats.

Decades later, I have no regrets. I almost feel like they should change my old Econ grade to at least a B. I can see any game I want with the money I've saved by not buying season tickets myself. I have generous friends who often share their seats or sell them reasonably. It's also easy to find tickets on the secondary market. While the big games can be more expensive, they're still not as much as buying them directly from the university packaged with the other low-interest games. This year, with no real marquee teams at home (including our own), a fan could go to StubHub or to the corner of Stadium and Main before the game and get tickets for a relative pittance. I had free tickets offered to me on more than one occasion and I couldn't summon the interest to even take them. That's the persistent problem Dave Brandon has dealt with all season with thousands just like me.

As for the concerns raised in the Alumni Association article, I agree with most people.
  • Students have been overcharged, and worse, treated like unruly children rather than well-educated adults. They've sucked the fun out of going to games. When I was a student, we never missed one, even if it meant sitting knee deep in snow at an OSU game in November. It was a blast. It's not just the availability of HDTV and cold, cheap beer that keeps kids home. It's the POW atmosphere. 
  • Prices for regular ticket-holders are too high for the current return on investment. Seat licensing is employed by most major Division 1 schools. It wasn't Dave Brandon's brainchild. He has, however, regularly raised prices for tickets, donation levels, and every item sold in the Big House even though people were getting less for their dollar each year. Michigan fans aren't stupid, unless you consider how long they've put up with it. Everyone has their breaking point and Brandon finally pushed the edge of that envelope this year.
  • Corporatization, I agree, is a problem but it isn't just happening in Ann Arbor. It's all about money and less about tradition everywhere. I'm not opposed to some changes in how a Saturday afternoon looks. The demographics of the crowd change and so will some of the "traditions". Flyovers, fireworks, and Beyonce just feel like tricks without a winning team. Hey, look at the shiny stuff up above (not the steaming mess on the field.) I do like that the stadium is loud. I like the echos of screaming fans and pump-up music mixed in with the band. Michigan Stadium has always been too dead. Too polite. Loud is not a bad thing when the opponent is trying focus on a drive. The corporate money grab is, however, driving away the cheering "little people" in favor of donors and corporate sponsors with big cash. Donors don't make much noise. What will they soon realize? The serfdom contributes a lot in smaller amounts every football Saturday, both in money and as the 12th man on the field. Brandon is now experiencing the peasant revolt. Instead of storming the Bastille, they're evacuating it.
  • The weak home scheduling is the last straw for most. You can't raise prices across the board while delivering an anemic home slate, then LOSE to some theoretically anemic opponents and not expect the masses to get unruly. These are the tickets people can't unload for any price. Especially when potential buyers have no faith they'll even witness a resounding victory. Michigan has signed some future opponents of interest - UCLA, Oklahoma, Texas. Some of those games are more than 10 years in the future. That's far too distant to entice a fan now considering a pair of season tickets for next year that will likely total more than $100/seat/game plus the donation extortion fee.
The answer seems to be "Fire Brandon. Fire Hoke!". It's the correct answer, but it's a dicey one, too. It means another four years, at least, of painful rebuilding. What if fan patience doesn't survive that? Do we become the school that eats coaches and spits them out in four year cycles until the second coming of Bo? (Who is dead, by the way, and not coming back.) I don't know. I fear it'll be a long time before we're back to the way we remember being. There may be a generation of fans that won't remember how it was. The natives are restless and desperate and out for blood. Even the anointed Jim Harbaugh himself would become a persona non grata if he came here and wasn't embarrassing Dantonio and Meyer within four years. I have no doubt.

And to sum up what this alum truly feels right now? I'm really kind of scared for us.

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