Football's still a tough sell at U

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 16, 2012 - 3:47 PM

An on-campus stadium hasn't sparked student interest in season tickets.

Three years after opening a new football stadium, the University of Minnesota is scrambling to get students -- and fans in general -- interested in going to the games.

Student season-ticket sales have steadily dropped from 10,000 in the first year at the 50,800-seat TCF Bank Stadium, to 7,800 the second year to less than 6,000 last year. Now, with the team's first home game on Sept. 8 less than a month away, roughly 2,000 student season tickets have been sold for the $288 million on-campus stadium that was seen as a key to rekindling passion and attendance after almost three decades in the Metrodome.

"We lose a lot, so there's not really a reason to go to a game," Jessica Shudy, a sophomore from Minneapolis, said as she sat in the school's student union. She said she thinks she went to three games a year ago -- she can't recall, exactly -- and is not sure she will go to any this year. "It was pretty bad," she said of watching the team last year. Among her friends, she added, the football team is "not really a big thing."

With student support for football at other Big Ten schools forming a stark contrast, the trend in Minnesota is troubling. The University of Michigan has sold 21,715 student season tickets so far this year, and the University of Wisconsin sold its 13,119 student season-ticket allotment in just 30 minutes.

Gophers officials insist they are holding onto fans, and that 90 percent of all season ticket holders at TCF Bank Stadium have re-upped for this year. But average football attendance at the new stadium has declined from nearly 51,000 fans a game in the first year of 2009 to 47,714 fans a year ago.

"We've dipped a bit," Norwood Teague, Minnesota's new athletic director, acknowledged in a speech on campus last week.

With Teague wanting a major upgrade in athletic facilities at the Twin Cities campus, the revenue loss associated with the lack of fans in the stands for football looms as a potential roadblock. Even as Teague talked last week of building new facilities for several sports -- "we are behind" compared to other schools, he said during a lunchtime speech -- a man in the audience stood up and told him it was "disappointing" to see the "student section half-filled" for football games.

School officials, with Teague looking over their shoulder, are racing to reverse the trend.

Reaching out to students

A new marketing plan will include a video of quarterback MarQueis Gray that will be e-mailed to the school's 40,000 students, and linebacker Keanon Cooper stood at a season-ticket signup table on campus on several occasions during the summer. The message to students will come in a variety of others ways -- from inserting fliers in napkin holders in school dining halls, making pleas to parents and having Teague ride through campus in a golf cart giving away free tickets.

The school, however, has already tried to entice students with free tickets, and last year Gophers football coach Jerry Kill also rode through campus in a golf cart with tickets.

Kyle Severson, a junior, said he bought a student season ticket during his freshman year, but he decided not to last year to save money -- student season tickets for seven home games this year are $84. He said he again plans to skip buying season tickets this year. "It'd be helpful if they won more often," said Severson, as he sat reading a book outside on campus.

But a winning football team, he added, is "not all that makes up a good school. It's not necessary to make it a good school."

The appears to be more passion for football on other Big Ten campuses. Even at Indiana, which like Minnesota last claimed a share of a Big Ten football title in 1967, the school has so far sold 12,315 student season tickets for 2012. Indiana's football stadium, with 52,929 seats, is roughly the size of TCF Bank Stadium.

Ohio State, which is not bowl-eligible this year because of penalties for NCAA infractions, has sold more than 26,000 full and partial student season tickets. At Iowa, students have so far bought 9,700 season tickets and Mike Osmundson, Hawkeyes assistant ticket manager, said he is confident the 10,500 student season-ticket allotment will be gone when classes start next week.

"For the past five or six years, we've sold out of our student tickets, and we anticipate getting there" again, Osmundson said.

Still expecting a bump

Jason LaFrenz, the Gophers assistant athletic director, said the school still hopes to sell 8,000 student season tickets this year, believing the current total will rise when students return to class.

"Other than that first year in TCF Bank Stadium, we've traditionally sold the majority of our students tickets in the 10 days before the first home game," he said. "That's when we sell all of our tickets."

Bob Hughes, president of the University of Minnesota's Goal Line football booster club, said the school has yet to recover from the loss of student support that came from playing nearly three decades at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.

"This whole generation of students now at the University of Minnesota, they didn't grow up with that college [on-campus] football experience," he said. "We lost a lot with the Metrodome."

But Hughes, despite the sagging numbers, is optimistic. "I easily see seven victories this year," he said. "I've never been so excited in my life."

Teague said he is confident the season-ticket sale tide can be turned, and that the problems will not impact his push for updated athletic facilities. "Part of it is winning," Teague said of what will get more fans at the games. "But I do think that you have to have quite a bit of promotional strategy.

"We're doing a lot. We just got to keep doing it, and stay persistent."

Melissa Cassel, a sophomore at the school, is an example of the ambivalence the school is fighting. Cassel said she went to "quite a few" games as a freshman, and this year will be at some games as part of a group fundraising effort. But she doubted she would be buying tickets because "it's expensive, and I'm really not much of a football fan."

She appears to have plenty of company in that regard.

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Dallas 6:00 PM
Orlando
Sacramento 6:00 PM
Indiana
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
Houston 6:30 PM
Detroit
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Cleveland 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Memphis
Portland 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
San Antonio
Charlotte 8:00 PM
Denver
Phoenix 9:30 PM
Golden State
Washington 0 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 1
NY Islanders 1 FINAL
Detroit 4
Arizona 2 3rd Prd 8:09
Ottawa 6
Los Angeles 6:00 PM
Boston
Florida 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Carolina 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Dallas 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Columbus 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Edmonton 9:00 PM
Calgary
Chicago 9:30 PM
San Jose
Boston College 49 FINAL
Clemson 64
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Eastern Mich 69
NC State 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Wisconsin 74 FINAL
Iowa 63
Stony Brook 48 FINAL
New Hampshire 63
Notre Dame 72 FINAL
Pittsburgh 76
Providence 66 FINAL
St Johns 75
Davidson 70 FINAL
Saint Josephs 75
Xavier 82 FINAL
Seton Hall 90
Tulane 37 FINAL
Temple 55
Auburn 63 FINAL
Tennessee 71
Texas Tech 58 FINAL
West Virginia 77
Arkansas 56 FINAL
Florida 57
Penn State 58 FINAL
Illinois 60
Lipscomb 73 FINAL
Stetson 75
South Florida 71 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Bradley 58 FINAL
Indiana State 64
UMass Lowell 69 FINAL
Binghamton 76
Green Bay 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 76
Georgetown 67 FINAL
Creighton 40
Coll of Charleston 68 FINAL
Delaware 71
Villanova 68 FINAL
DePaul 55
Vermont 65 FINAL
Hartford 46
TCU 66 FINAL
Iowa State 83
Kennesaw St 51 FINAL
Jacksonville 50
Kansas State 57 FINAL
Kansas 68
Boston Univ 86 FINAL
Lehigh 89
Illinois State 48 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
Albany 77 FINAL
Maine 59
Butler 72 FINAL
Marquette 68
LSU 67 FINAL
Miss State 73
Mount St Marys 77 FINAL
Sacred Heart 71
Richmond 64 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 55
Virginia Tech 70 FINAL
Wake Forest 73
IUPU-Ft Wayne 75 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 65
Arkansas State 43 FINAL
Georgia State 74
Loyola-Maryland 77 FINAL
Army 71
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Belmont 71
Bethune-Cookman 61 FINAL
Florida A&M 44
Valparaiso 70 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 65
UAB 65 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 57
Idaho State 69 FINAL
North Dakota 80
Evansville 65 FINAL
Drake 70
Rutgers 64 FINAL
Indiana 72
Ball State 70 2nd Half 0:14
Miami-Ohio 76
Southern U 24 2nd Half 15:01
Alcorn State 35
UNC-Wilmington 49 2nd Half 11:47
Drexel 55
Coastal Carolina 48 2nd Half 10:27
Gardner-Webb 45
Morgan State 20 2nd Half
Howard 28
William & Mary 62 2nd Half 11:28
James Madison 47
North Carolina 44 2nd Half 16:29
Louisville 31
Coppin State 48 2nd Half
MD-Eastern Shore 45
Ole Miss 48 2nd Half 10:33
Missouri 37
Wichita State 35 2nd Half 12:04
Northern Iowa 50
Loyola Marymount 44 2nd Half 8:21
Pacific 52
Winthrop 48 2nd Half 10:00
Radford 53
George Washington 28 2nd Half 14:39
Rhode Island 36
Bryant 44 2nd Half 11:20
Robert Morris 36
Long Island 47 2nd Half 12:25
St Francis-NY 57
Fair-Dickinson 48 2nd Half 8:58
St Francis-PA 50
Massachusetts 44 2nd Half 12:08
Saint Louis 37
Georgia 32 2nd Half 12:22
South Carolina 44
Central Conn St 48 2nd Half 4:21
Wagner 70
SIU Edwardsville 32 2nd Half 13:24
Eastern Ill 32
Ohio 31 2nd Half
Central Mich 41
Eastern Ky 27 2nd Half
Morehead State 34
Incarnate Word 30 2nd Half 20:00
Nicholls 27
Campbell 27 2nd Half
UNC-Asheville 24
Vanderbilt 23 2nd Half
Texas A&M 39
Western Carolina 16 1st Half 10:14
UNC Greensboro 13
Detroit 6 1st Half 11:33
Milwaukee 15
Idaho 30 1st Half 8:07
Eastern Wash 18
Marshall 4:30 PM
Louisiana Tech
Jackson State 4:30 PM
Miss Valley St
Houston Baptist 4:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Louisiana 4:30 PM
Texas State
Denver 4:30 PM
South Dakota St
Oral Roberts 4:30 PM
South Dakota
South Alabama 4:35 PM
ULM
Texas 5:00 PM
Baylor
Citadel 5:00 PM
Chattanooga
Fresno State 5:00 PM
Colorado State
Yale 5:00 PM
Cornell
Ark-Pine Bluff 5:00 PM
Grambling St
Nebraska 5:00 PM
Minnesota
Hampton 5:00 PM
Norfolk State
Purdue 5:00 PM
Northwestern
Alabama A&M 5:00 PM
Prairie View
Dartmouth 5:00 PM
Princeton
Pepperdine 5:00 PM
St Marys-CA
NC A&T 5:00 PM
Savannah State
Delaware State 5:00 PM
SC State
Western Ky 5:00 PM
Southern Miss
Nevada 5:00 PM
Wyoming
Akron 6:00 PM
Bowling Green
Colgate 6:00 PM
Bucknell
FIU 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Brown 6:00 PM
Columbia
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Duquesne
NC Central 6:00 PM
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Saint Peters 6:00 PM
Iona
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Char Southern 6:00 PM
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Navy
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Northeastern
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Old Dominion
Harvard 6:00 PM
Penn
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St Bonaventure
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TX A&M-CC 6:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
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Virginia
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Wofford
Northern Ky 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
North Florida
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Presbyterian
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Ga Southern
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Austin Peay
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Murray State
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New Mexico
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North Texas
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Northern Ill
Oklahoma 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
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San Diego St
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SE Louisiana
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SMU
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Missouri State
Troy 7:15 PM
Texas-Arlington
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Tennessee St
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Stanford 7:30 PM
Washington St
Santa Clara 8:00 PM
BYU
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New Mexico St
Northern Ariz 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
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Texas-El Paso
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Northern Colorado
Chicago State 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
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UC Irvine
Memphis 9:00 PM
Gonzaga
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UNLV
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Seattle 9:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
Montana State 9:05 PM
Portland State
Montana 9:05 PM
Sacramento St
Colorado 9:30 PM
UCLA
UMKC 9:30 PM
Utah Valley U
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Sacred Heart 71
Texas-El Paso 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 74
Arkansas State 61 FINAL
Georgia State 47
Bryant 84 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Central Conn St 83 FINAL
Wagner 67
Fairleigh Dickinson 78 FINAL
St Francis-PA 60
Long Island 53 FINAL
St Francis-NY 62
Bethune-Cookman 70 FINAL
Florida A&M 57
Longwood 56 FINAL
Campbell 68
Charleston Southern 40 FINAL
Winthrop 77
Louisiana Tech 68 FINAL
Marshall 67
Ohio U 74 FINAL
Central Michigan 66
Western Mich 61 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 53
Coppin State 58 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 66
Incarnate Word 34 FINAL
Nicholls 67
Samford 46 FINAL
East Tenn St 48
Western Carolina 72 FINAL
Furman 84
Gardner-Webb 71 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 65
Liberty 58 FINAL
High Point 41
Presbyterian 46 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 59
Kent State 67 FINAL
Akron 74
Northern Ill 65 FINAL
Ball State 62
Houston 66 FINAL
Cincinnati 69
SIU-Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 48
Eastern Kentucky 58 FINAL
Morehead St 76
Holy Cross 67 FINAL
American Univ 61
Army 62 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 53
Niagara 53 FINAL
Manhattan 46
Lehigh 78 FINAL
Boston U 71
Navy 65 FINAL
Lafayette 60
Saint Josephs 57 FINAL
Davidson 52
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Fordham 46
George Washington 87 FINAL
George Mason 52
St Bonaventure 77 FINAL
Massachusetts 57
Milwaukee 64 FINAL
Youngstown St 87
Jacksonville 78 FINAL
Kennesaw St 64
North Florida 49 FINAL
USC Upstate 61
St Marys-CA 53 FINAL
Pepperdine 49
Nebraska Omaha 49 FINAL
IUPUI 68
Houston Baptist 67 FINAL
Sam Houston St 74
Mercer 59 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 71
No Dakota State 52 FINAL
South Dakota St 82
Oral Roberts 70 FINAL
South Dakota 93
Southern Miss 63 FINAL
Western Ky 61
TX-San Antonio 57 FINAL
UAB 73
East Carolina 67 FINAL
Tulane 63
South Florida 57 FINAL
Memphis 53
Buffalo 75 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 53
New Mexico St 74 FINAL
TX-Pan American 71
Utah Valley U 58 FINAL
UMKC 61
Jackson State 71 FINAL
Miss Valley St 74
Louisiana 83 FINAL
Texas State 81
South Alabama 53 FINAL
ULM 55
Saint Louis 72 FINAL
Dayton 87
Cleveland State 72 FINAL
Oakland 64
Grand Canyon 76 FINAL
Chicago State 51
UCLA 65 FINAL
Oregon 67
Washington St 56 FINAL
(12) Stanford 75
Kansas State 32 2nd Half 12:20
Texas Tech 32
UNLV 54 2nd Half 11:44
Air Force 61
UCF 50 2nd Half 7:42
Tulsa 51
UNC Greensboro 51 2nd Half 8:40
Wofford 57
Delaware State 49 2nd Half 7:20
SC State 51
San Diego State 49 2nd Half 7:31
Utah State 44
Sacramento St 55 2nd Half 11:30
Montana 70
Hampton 51 2nd Half 8:43
Norfolk State 52
NC A&T 40 2nd Half 10:45
Savannah State 38
Alabama A&M 33 2nd Half
Prairie View 40
Toledo 45 2nd Half 10:56
Bowling Green 32
Ark-Pine Bluff 18 2nd Half
Grambling 29
Southern U 20 2nd Half 16:00
Alcorn State 33
Marist 43 2nd Half 10:15
Iona 42
Bucknell 37 2nd Half 6:47
Colgate 43
North Dakota 48 2nd Half 7:27
Idaho State 55
Ark-Little Rock 26 2nd Half
Georgia Southern 23
BYU 8 1st Half 10:53
Santa Clara 13
Gonzaga 24 1st Half 7:13
Portland 21
Pacific 13 1st Half 11:56
Loyola Marymount 12
Colorado State 15 1st Half 10:16
Fresno State 11
New Mexico 16 1st Half 12:13
San Jose St 9
UC Davis 8 1st Half 9:27
UC Santa Barbara 11
San Diego 12 1st Half 10:53
San Francisco 18
New Orleans 13 1st Half 9:09
McNeese State 23
TX A&M-CC 17 1st Half 5:42
Stephen F Austin 18
Old Dominion 19 1st Half 10:34
Florida Atlantic 6
Tenn Tech 6 1st Half 12:19
Belmont 12
Eastern Washington 13 1st Half 8:50
Idaho 16
Stetson 23 1st Half 9:47
Lipscomb 10
Washington 4:30 PM
California
USC 4:30 PM
(7) Oregon State
IUPU-Ft Wayne 4:30 PM
Western Ill
Abilene Christian 4:30 PM
Lamar
Northwestern St 4:30 PM
SE Louisiana
SE Missouri St 4:30 PM
Austin Peay
Portland State 5:00 PM
Montana State
Columbia 5:00 PM
Brown
Northern Colorado 5:00 PM
Weber State
Charlotte 5:00 PM
FIU
(19) Princeton 5:00 PM
Dartmouth
Penn 5:00 PM
Harvard
UT Martin 5:00 PM
Murray State
Troy 5:00 PM
TX-Arlington
Morgan State 77 FINAL
Howard 64
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Jacksonville St 5:30 PM
Tennessee St
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Nevada
Oklahoma St 6:00 PM
Iowa State
CS-Bakersfield 6:00 PM
Seattle
La Salle 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Cal-Irvine 6:00 PM
Cal Poly
Fla Gulf Coast 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Southern Utah 7:00 PM
Northern Ariz
Green Bay 7:00 PM
Illinois-Chicago
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
Long Beach St
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Hawaii
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