WVU football ticket sales on decline
Coming off a 4-8 season, West Virginia football season ticket sales are down from last year at this time and way down from two years ago.
As of Tuesday, about 4,000 fewer full season tickets were sold compared to the same date last year, a decline of about 10 percent.
Overall, WVU sold 33,623 season tickets last season. With the home opener about 2½ weeks away, 29,419 have been sold.
“I think if you take a step back and take a longer perspective, we're still at a higher number than we were 10 years ago,” said Matt Wells, WVU associate athletic director for external affairs. “The season ticket base is stronger.”
In 2005, after the reduction in seating capacity at Milan Puskar Stadium from 63,500 to 60,000 (due to the construction of suites and club seats), season ticket sales numbered 27,664.
WVU sold 37,341 season tickets in 2012 after WVU went 11-3, won the Big East co-championship and beat Clemson, 70-33, in the Sugar Bowl.
The 2012 season also was the first in which WVU began competing in the Big 12, with Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and other talented, experienced players returning. Wells called the confluence of circumstances “a perfect storm.”
“We had a huge spike after the 2011 season,” athletic director Oliver Luck said. “Between 2011 and 2012, I think we generated an additional $4 million in ticket sales. “People were excited. It was great, but I also knew it was not sustainable.
“I've been in the sports business long enough to know that when you have those spikes, you enjoy 'em. Sometimes they remain an outlier or an anomaly. That's not to say we won't get back there at some point, but that was, like, as good as it's gonna get. I expected some sort of drop.”
Overall attendance declined last season as WVU lost six of its last seven games. Crowds averaged 52,910 in six home games, the lowest since 2003.
Wells acknowledged that “winning certainly helps” in attracting fans, but pointed out that college attendance in general has declined since peaking in 2008.
As with the NFL, Wells said college football attendance has been affected by technological advances that have made viewing games in places other than stadiums more appealing. Although funding has been approved for some renovations to the stadium, built in 1980, “not a whole lot has changed, Wells said.
“It's something we monitor, and we're doing everything we can to combat the decline and put all our resources into enhancing the game-day experience,” said Wells, who noted that WVU, for the first time, hired a staff “whose sole focus” is selling tickets.
“It's definitely a priority,” he said.
Wells was encouraged, however, by a recent report from secondary ticket seller Vivid Seats.com listing West Virginia ranking fairly high nationally in median and average ticket prices on the secondary market.
“It tells me there's still interest among our fan base, and it's something people are willing to pay for,” he said.
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.