For 258 consecutive games, the University of Michigan has claimed a crowd of over 100,000 fans have packed into Michigan Stadium to watch the Wolverines play football. As if Coca-Cola ticket promos were not enough to tarnish that number, a new report says the school gave away as many as 62,879 free tickets in 2014 just to keep that somewhat meaningless record going.
The Detroit News reports Michigan’s increased number of comp tickets accounted for 8.9 percent of the stadium’s attendance in 2014, which is up from 2.8 percent in 2013. In Michigan’s final home game of the season against new Big Ten member Maryland, the school handed out approximately 17,000 free tickets according to the report. That helped push the attendance for that game to just over 101,000. That would be the smallest crowd in Michigan Stadium since a 1995 home game against Memphis. But hey, that Big Ten’s presence in the east makes up for this, right?
Every school gives away a certain number of tickets for free, so Michigan is certainly not the first to resort to this tactic nor will they be the last. As the focus on attendance issues continues to spread around the sports world, including the college level, teams and schools have to find ways to generate interest in coming to a game. Sometimes free tickets can do just that. We also have to remember just how rough it was for Michigan last season. The team was not very good and Brady Hoke was pretty much a lame duck coach. Hoke is gone, and there have been changes above as well.
The good news is things look to be on the upswing since the hiring of new head coach Jim Harbaugh. Ticket sales are already increasing and season tickets now have a waiting list for the first time in years. The Harbaugh hype appears to be generating a buzz around Ann Arbor, and the issues regarding attendance should diminish as a result in 2015. This spring Michigan saw one of its biggest spring crowds in over two decades, ranking them second this spring in spring game attendance behind only Nebraska heading into the weekend.