College football is a great sport but, while everybody is playing the same game between the lines, what happens off the field is hardly a bastion of equality. For every time Michigan packs the Big House or Alabama sells out Bryant Denny Stadium, there are other schools — chiefly at the Group of Five level, but not always — who are just struggling to get by in the booming business college athletics has become.
Which leads us to another form of #MACtion that is far less exciting than the midweek games you’re used to seeing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays: buying tickets to meet NCAA attendance minimums.
As detailed by student newspaper Northern Star, Northern Illinois announced their home attendance for the 2017 season at 67,748, but an audit obtained by the paper showed that scanned tickets totaled only 44,084 in the same time period. With six home games, that latter figure would have put the school below the NCAA’s FBS attendance threshold of 15,000 per home game.
The end result? NIU had to purchase 56,345 tickets for a whopping $273,619 in order to comply with the regulations and hit the minimum number of paid tickets for each home game.
“I’d garner if you did research on [on ticket buy backs], you would probably find 100 percent ratio where schools our size or in our conference do something similar to what we do,” athletic director Sean Frazier said.
Frazier is probably not wrong about NIU being one of many schools who have to employ the practice but it speaks to the wild NCAA accounting hoops that some schools have to go through each year. As a result, the next time you hear a Group of Five school is getting a big check as part of a revenue guarantee game, just note that part of that money could be going to tickets at home as well if the stadium isn’t quite rocking like it should be on a Saturday afternoon.