The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

July 9, 2014

WVU hopes to boost on lowest season-ticket sales in last nine years

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University’s season-ticket sales for football are the lowest in nine years just two months before this season’s first home game.

That will be on Saturday, Sept. 6, against Towson State. The Big 12 portion of the schedule follows later.

Last mid-week, Matt Wells, WVU associate athletic director for marketing and sales, announced that only 28,953 season-tickets had been sold at that time. And the renewal deadline for previous purchasers has passed.

That was the first time since 2005 that West Virginia hadn’t reached well over 30,000. The draw for 2005 was listed as 29,579.

This shouldn’t really be a surprise to any true Mountaineer fan, though. The football team slipped to a 4-8 record in 2013 — one of the worst in school history.

What’s more, the Mountaineers are 6-14 for the last 20 games. The program’s collapse followed that memorable 5-0 start and No. 5 national ranking in 2012.

It’s still mind-boggling to many, many folks interested in WVU affairs. Does the blame extend as far as the Board of Governors?

I don’t know. I’m just asking.

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Getting back to ticket-selling, WVU entered into a partnership with IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions. That firm will hope to raise the final figures.

It is designed to help assist the ticket office’s existing personnel. Part of the plan is to contact WVU fans who didn’t renew buying season tickets.

Besides the sudden lack of success in football, rising ticket prices have to be a growing factor in sagging sales. Athletic directors everywhere, I’m told, have let it get out of control.

For example, it cost one WVU fan I know $280 for a couple of decent tickets to the Aug. 30 season opener between West Virginia and Alabama in Atlanta, Ga.

How many folks can afford to dish out $140 for one ticket? You can stay at home and watch the game on TV.

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In case you’re wondering, here is a list of year-by-year football season sales since 2005:

2006 – 35,208; 2007 – 38,037; 2008 – 38,191; 2009 – 36,690; 2010 – 34,754; 2011 – 34,735; 2012 – 37,431; and 2013 – 33,623.

You’ll note that last season’s total was the lowest since 2005.

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The university generates more than $16, million a year from all ticket sales. Football and men’s basketball have been the two major revenue producers annually.

But attendance has decreased somewhat for home games in both sports in recent years. That reportedly has created concern.

Football drew an average of only 52,900 per game last season. That was 3,000 less than in 2012 (55,912) per game and about 5,000 fewer fans from the 2008 average (58, 084).

The seating capacity at Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium is listed at 60,000.

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Attendance for men’s basketball games at the Coliseum has been affected similarly in recent years.

WVU averaged 167,000 fans per season from 2008-11. But it dropped to slightly more than 130,000 in 2012 and 2013.

Last winter’s per-game average attendance of 8,575 was the lowest in seven years. The Coliseum seats 14,000 fans.

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