Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Spring Game Attendance – Do You Think "Dollar Bill" Dave Is Getting The Message?

Please consider the following figures:

Anyone know what those figures have in common?  They are all spring game attendance figures from what are considered to be four of the top football programs in the B1G conference – East Division
One program has a brand new head coach that’s from the “area” albeit not from the University itself and they are happy to have him and turned out in droves to show their support.  Another program allows alumni to come back and draft players and have a “real” game for some internal bragging rights and also generate fan interest.  The third program is still glowing in the aftermath of an outright B1G Championship and Rose Bowl victory…. And the other program is stuck in the mud with no clear direction….of anything.
Enough with the suspense:  PSU had 72K, OSU had 61K, Sparty - 35K  and Michigan had 15K.  Now, a lot of that could be attributed to the fact that ohio was knocked out of the NCAA’s in the first round and PSU didn’t even make the NCAA’s so there were a lot of fans ready to get “on with the next sport” at those Universities.
But Michigan used to draw 25K-50K depending on the weather and the weather a couple of Saturdays ago was not that bad…yes, a little cool…But not that bad.  Could it be that the next generation of Michigan football fans are starting to look at their collective elders and state, “What, EXACTLY, are you so excited about?  Michigan hasn’t mattered in the Big 10 Championship race for the last 10 years."  (Okay, I’ll give you the incredible 2006 season – but they still didn’t win the B1G and they didn’t win a bowl either).
Could it also be that the next generation isn’t as starry eyed as their elders and are just getting a little fed up with this team and the way the program has developed since the last years of Lloyd Carr? 
Could it be that all the fans who loyally go to the games on Home Saturdays in the fall are aware of what they are looking at on the field and wondering why on Earth they should renew their season tickets to the tune of $455 per ticket for 8 home games that are on the surface, painful.  And that schedule makes you wonder why you're spending good, hard earned entertainment budget money on the 2014 Season Tix much less go to a spring game?
Could be all those things…But I’m sure Brandon won’t see it that way. Dave’s too worried about what and how he’ll spend all of this early season ticket money that he’s receiving (almost 5 months in advance in today’s electronic age) and a lot of it is NOT earmarked for the betterment of the student athlete.
In just four years, the athletic department’s budget has expanded from $100 million to $137 million dollars – and that does not include the $340 million earmarked for a new building master plan. This rapidly growing empire could be threatened by a perfect storm of a bad record, skyrocketing ticket prices, and next season’s horrible home schedule.
This brings up two questions: How do they increase the budget by 37-percent? And where do they spend it?
First, Athletic Director Dave Brandon pushed aside faculty control. Michigan’s Advisory Board on Intercollegiate Athletics didn’t even know he planned to promote Michigan’s men’s and women’s lacrosse teams to varsity status – at a cost of over $3 million year — until the day before it was announced. But that’s one day sooner than they hear about large hikes in ticket prices, and just about everything else the athletic department is doing.

Michigan’s late athletic director, Don Canham, wrote in 2005 that without faculty control, athletic directors have virtually no restraints. “What $70-million dollar business could conduct business without a board of control?”

The athletic department needed to find new sources of revenue, and squeeze more money out of the old ones. To do so, it has tripled the size of its development staff, and pumped the prices of tickets and “seat licenses” by roughly 30- to 50-percent, or about $100 per seat. The athletic department now charges $9,000 for corporate events in the stadium skyboxes and $6,000 for a one-hour wedding reception on the 50-yard line. They even charge school kids for tours, which Michigan had always provided for free.

When former athletic director Bill Martin told me, “Just because you can charge them more, doesn’t mean you should,” he sounded like somebody who had retired thirty years ago, not three.

Add it all up, and the department will not just cover its expanded $137 million dollar budget, it will show a nearly $9 million dollar budget surplus.

So, where does all this money go?

Staff salaries, for example, have grown from $34 million to $49 million under Brandon, including a 62-percent increase in administrator compensation. The athletic department’s spending on “Marketing, promotions and ticketing,” and “Professional travel and conference dues,” have tripled to almost three million. But perhaps most surprising is the $2.6 million the department now spends on “Hosting, Food and Special Events,” an increase of almost 500-percent.

In other words, the additional millions the fans are now being forced to pay are not going to the students on the field, but the suits in the building – including almost a million dollars a year for the Athletic Director himself, three times the salary of his predecessor.

“Look into how much is spent on marketing, then look at how effective it is,” Martin told me. “You don’t have to do marketing at Michigan. We have the fans. We have the support. We have a great reputation. All you have to do is win. If you win, they will come. You just need to make it as affordable as possible for your fans.”

You could assume from all of this that I have an issue with Dave Brandon and his record to date.  You'd be correct in that assumption.  He's reached "Sailboat Bill" proportions and has now earned the nickname "Dollar Bill Dave"....In reference to how he can squeeze one more dollar from your wallet each and every time you visit Ann Arbor. 
I would suggest you read the entire blog entry for all the information.
Still Encouraging Cheating Update
In case you haven’t heard, the SEC has decided to maintain an 8 game league schedule that will more or less keep cross conferencematch-ups down to a minimum.
Even with 9 games as most every other B1G conference has adopted, the cross-conference games with all league opponents ends up sorting itself out to a twice a decade game with your cross-division opponents.  In the 8-game league schedule, Alabama and Florida can go up to 12 years without playing each other and will probably only play each other twice every 20 years.  That’s no longer a league or a rivalry but a league within a league that has an occasional game with someone they might remember from years gone by.
But Alabama fans can certainly get used to seeing the University of Southern Louisiana State every season…Yeah, that’s great. 
So, the SEC has more or less insured its top teams of 4 wins every season in addition to getting away from some of the toughest intra-league games and also providing either the East or the West champion of a decent shot of an undefeated (or 1 loss) season and a spot in the national title discussion – especially in a 4 team play-off.
And the NCAA doesn’t seem to give a crap about that….Not that there’s anything the NCAA can do about that particular issue, anyway.  And the other conferences of course cannot tell the SEC how to conduct business.  But the NCAA could at least frown upon it and make a public statement that in the interest of fairness and spirit of competition, the SEC adopt a 9 game league schedule…
Of course, that would mean that the NCAA has a clue.

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