Glass pleased with ticket sales, patient with Wilson

 

 

Fred Glass was admittedly afraid that 2012 would bring even more empty seats to Memorial Stadium than usual.

This year, there was no new gimmick to sell. Indiana’s biggest new offseason investment was a turf field for the practice facility north of Memorial Stadium. The previous year’s addition — new coach Kevin Wilson — had posted a 1-11 record in his first year at the helm. Considering Indiana’s history of football mediocrity, that wasn’t enough to bring out the pitchforks and calls for his dismissal, but it was enough to dull some of his shine.

“I was very concerned after 1-11,” Glass said at Indiana’s football media day on Thursday at the Heinke Hall of Champions in the North End Zone facility at Memorial Stadium, “that he’s not the new coach anymore, and it’s not the new end zone (facility) anymore, and we could have a fall off.”

Glass was surprised — and thrilled — that his fears didn’t manifest, at least in season-ticket sales. Glass said Thursday that the Hoosiers have sold 26,033 season tickets already, which is the most Indiana has sold in more than 20 years. Last year, by season’s end, the Hoosiers sold 21,961.

There are a number of reasons to tamp down the enthusiasm on that number. For one thing, Memorial Stadium seats 52,929, so the season ticket holders would fit just half the stadium, which is also one of the smaller facilities in the Big Ten. Plus, IU offered combo season-ticket packages with basketball season tickets, which are coveted items considering the likelihood that IU could be preseason No. 1 in the sport. 

Still, Glass had every reason to expect a painful dropoff, and he was pleased to instead see an increase.

“I’m not doing jumping jacks and flips for a 26,000 season ticket base,” Glass said. “That’s pretty anemic. It’s not where we need to be ultimately. But the fact that we’re not regressing during this transition is extraordinarily comforting to me.”

It’s a comforting trend for a number of reasons, Glass said. It suggests that there is patience in Wilson’s program, he said, and that fans didn’t immediately abandon him after the Hoosiers fell from 5-7 to 1-11 in his first year. There is an understanding the program has been historically down and that there were significant talent losses between former coach Bill Lynch’s final year and his own.

It is also proof, Glass said, that football games are becoming a more steady part of the undergraduate experience at Indiana.

“We were up in both public and student tickets,” Glass said. “Student tickets are up more significantly, and I think that’s because kids are really enjoying going to the games. I think it’s more a part of the fabric of student life than it used to be. The (tailgating) activities across 17th Street, now they end at kickoff. … Some of those kids go home, but more of them come into the stadium.”

It also helps, Glass said, that the home schedule is a good draw. Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State, all expected to finish close to the top of the conference, will visit Bloomington as will Iowa. Both of the Hoosiers’ home non-conference games will be against in-state foes in Indiana State and Ball State, which should mitigate the typical dropoffs for those games. It also helps to some degree that the Hoosiers are scheduled to have three 8 p.m. kickoffs. Glass said he was concerned that fans from Indianapolis and north of it would shun games because of how late they would return home from games, but said that late kickoffs are still better than noon kickoffs for attendance purposes, especially among students.

Wilson acknowledged that the schedule was enough to buoy the attendance and that to keep it up, the Hoosiers will need to start posting better records than 1-11.

“We’ve got a great alumni base,” Wilson said. “We’ll put a product out there, and the better the product — even though the product’s struggled the first year — those fans are gonna come.”

Glass maintains faith in that and said that he will continue to have patience in the progress of the program under Wilson. The second-year coach has a seven-year contract, and Glass said he will not panic if there isn’t a significant uptick in victories this year.

“I’m looking for improvement,” Glass said. “We’ll measure that in a variety of ways. Wins and losses are important, we’re not going to ignore that, but we’re also going to be patient and understand we’re building a program. That’s why I gave Kevin a seven-year contract. I think we need to get a group we believe in and stick with them. That’s what we’re gonna do. We’re not gonna overreact if the wins aren’t where we want them to be in Year 2.”

16 comments

  1. I’m glad you mentioned the fact that some of these non-student ticket sales are based on a package deal with basketball. I’m a huge IU Football fan, but probably wouldn’t have bought tickets. However, to keep up with alumni “points” – I had to buy football tickets. Its a bit of a scam, because I won’t go to many games, but I’m happy to support the school. I wonder if the attendance will actually increase in proportion to increased ticket sales.

  2. Although I have had season tix for several years, I have a few friends also in Eric’s situation. Sales>attendance.

    Disappointing to hear about the struggles of some of the players.
    Hopefully a learning experience, and Hoosier football is ready to turn around.

  3. Does it really matter why people bought the tickets? Its more money for the AD and even a few more people in the stands is a good thing.

    Also, CKW still says Win Today all the time on Twitter and its posted all around the football complex. It just means make the most of every day.

  4. Jimmy, I’m sure you understand that some people are either too “thick” to understand the meaning of KW’s “win today” slogan or are simply anti-IU and use its literal meaning as a means of kicking a program when its down. There’s no sense in debating either stupid people or those cynics that have a hard boiled disdain for either IU in general or IU football in particular. Some of them are incapable of understanding the meaning of the “win today” slogan and some of them see it as an opportunity to express their disdain.

    Funny, I don’t see anyone ripping on ND even though they have a slogan that says “Play Like a Champion today,” but have not been champions for many years.

  5. While not all the details behind the increased fball tix sales are encouraging for the longer-term future (e.g., it is a blockbuster home conference schedule this year), there are some truly positive trends relative to the past:
    *If the department is willing to explicitly leverage the basketball program, said program looks poised for an explosion. Personally, I think the dept. should be even more aggressive about connecting the two.
    *Compared to past decades, a greater share of the student body is from out-of-state, and thus are more likely to have grown up in places where football is more popular than it is for Indiana youth.
    *Indianapolis is a much larger place than it used to be.
    *The stadium is a better place to be during a game. There’s a long way to go, yet, and much that could be done to promote atmosphere that is not being done…but it is leagues better than it used to be.

    Most importantly, and this is only my take, I think Wilson has a lot of buy-in among the fan base and that they’ll keep the faith for a while, regardless of record, as Wilson brings the program forward. It’s kind of hard to describe…it’s like I trust him, and like I sense that others do, too. Now, he can’t go 0-11 for two more years and still keep his seat comfy, but he’s got some rope, imho.

    Anyway, Go Hoosiers!

  6. guest, I liked your post #6, but not sure that your comment about the number of out-of-state students attending IU is correct. Do you have data to back that up?

    When I went to IU back in the late 70’s, the school used to promote the fact that a very large portion of the students were from out-of-state. I honestly don’t recall the percentages or numbers, but I remember being surprised by how large those were at the time. I was one of those out of state students and during my four years at IU-B, I met a lot of others like me.

    I would assume, given how expensive IU is for out-of-state tuition, that the numbers would be declining, not increasing.

  7. I used to go to Tennessee games from time to time due to proximity and family. They pack it every game. What a frickin’ dump! I think every stadium expansion just meant they moved those splinter filled boards closer and paint the seats smaller. It is impossible to point your knees forward as you would overlap the row in front of you. A natural sitting position would require removing every other row. You spend the entire game seated in a twist. Getting to your seat is life threatening. The urinals are gutters nailed to the walls. If a toilet works the doors are usually hanging from a single broken hinge. Urine covers the floors. Yechh.

    It’s amazing what people will endure if the tradition is there.

  8. What a great comment/thought bgy ‘Guest”. Really captures what many (me included) feel. The best thought, and summary:
    “…It’s kind of hard to describe…it’s like I trust him, and like I sense that others do, too…”

    Hope you keep your thoughts coming.

  9. I am anxious to hear reports about todays open practice. I have to believe it will not be the same flavor of the open practice last year. Coach Wilson will want the players to show a chip on the shoulder demeanor. I am most interested to hear how Jon Fabris runs his part of practice.

  10. Podunker,

    Sorry it took me a bit to respond…yes, I can assure you that it’s the case, particularly with respect to students from out east.

    It’s a product of two trends: increased enrollment overall and an increased share of enrollment from out-of-state. Since 1986, for example, the total size of the entering class has grown by 26%, while the size of the class from out-of-state has grown by 37%. Those data even represent a bit of a retrenchment, because of the financial crisis (nationally, students have been seeking out cheaper college options since ’08). In 2007, the share of the class that was from out-of-state had climbed to 42%, compared to 34% in ’86. There was even a Wall Street Journal article about IU’s growing popularity with NYC-area students a couple of years ago. If you google it, you should be able to find it.

    There’s also a good reason for the trend from IU’s perspective, though the university would never admit it. In the face of a relative or even real loss in state budget support going back many years, out-of-state students pay more tuition and thus help the university survive. Of course, the change has not been without criticism from some quarters, as you would imagine…each slot given to an out-of-state student is a slot taken away from an Ind. HS student.

    Of course, there are some benefits, too, and even beyond the potential impact on interest in the football program. First, it doesn’t exactly hurt local hs graduates to be exposed to students from other places. Second, the trend correlates with increased competitiveness, to the point that the SAT scores of the freshman class have now begun to surpass the scores of Purdue’s entering freshmen, whereas IU’s scores used to lag Purdue’s by a good margin.

    That’s a nice little bragging point, no?

  11. guest, great post, and thank you for the data. I think the trend is good news for Hoosiers everywhere.

    My youngest daughter attended IU and my wife and I payed 100% of the out-of-state tuition (as a result, I will never be able to retire). It was a bunch of money, but my daughter had a great time and did well academically, so no major complaints from us.

    University of Arizona is another “land grant” state school that has a very high percentage of out-of-state students. It also uses that extra revenue from out-of-state tuition to keep in-state tuition very low. Next time you hear an Indiana resident complain about IU’s admissions policies, you can remind them that if IU reduces the number of out-of-state students that are allowed to enroll at IU, the cost of in-state tuition would increase dramatically.

    I think you make a good point about out-of-state students bringing more interest in football to Bloomington. I was one of those students back in the 70’s and interestingly enough, a lot of the most enthusiastic fans I knew were out-of-state students like myself. Upon arrival at IU, my daughter was real excited to attend IU football games and went to every home game her freshman year. That year was IU’s last winning season and it last trip to a bowl game. Within two years, IU football was terrible again and she became really frustrated with so many of her fellow students’ attitude about IU football. She told me the pessimism was overwhelming and that many of the student teased her for wanting to actually go into the stadium and watch the games. Apparently, it was not cool to actually attend the games, and in fact if you wanted to break away from the tailgate parties and go into Memorial Stadium, you were often ridiculed. That culture has to change.

  12. To repeat myself, IU should paper the house. $5.00 game day tickets for students. Why not bus in loads of high school teams on Sat. after their Fri. night games? A lot of kids would like to see a Big Ten game for a few bucks if their coach would organize(with help from the IU athletic dept) a ninety-minute bus ride.

  13. davis, not sure that selling tickets for $5 each would improve attendance significantly. While cost of tickets may be an issue to some, I think IU football’s culture of losing and the emotional impact it has had on a lot of Hoosiers, especially students, is the primary cause of the weak attendance.

    As my daughter discovered during her first year at IU, children growing up in Indiana are conditioned from birth to understand and accept that IU is not good in football, never has been good in football and never will be good in football. I’ve read similar comments posted on this site many times. To many of these young people (students), it’s just the way it is and always will be. And this understanding is almost celebrated. It has a counter-culture vibe to it, as if the students take pride in their disdain for IU football, their refusal to go into Memorial Stadium on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and their refusal to make any kind of emotional investment in the hope that it might improve.

    My nephew attended IU for five years. During his senior year, on a Friday before an IU game, I asked him if he was attending “tomorrow’s” game. He told me that he was not attending the game, had never attended an IU football game, and never would attend an IU football game. The tone he used could be described as proud and defiant. I asked him why such determination to avoid IU football games. His response was simply, “because IU sucks in football.” He then told me, “I have a lot of friends on campus that have never attended an IU football game. We don’t even watch the games on T.V.. he then told me, we like football, we’re all huge Colts fans, but we won’t waste our time on IU football.

    The interesting thing about his comments was that they were made the year after IU went to its last bowl game.

  14. Po- all true; a winning tradition would cure it all. Your nephew probably wouldn’t have gone to a game if the ducats were free. But we’ve got to try something! I refuse to eat the status quo for breakfast.

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