Information about season ticket renewals, ticket packaging, and Nittany Lion Club membership have been anything but "open and transparent."
While many people predicted dire consequences for the PSU football program as a consequence of the Sandusky scandal, last year's successful season proved that the majority Penn State fans stayed loyal to Dear Old State.
Of course, the problem with using last year as a measuring stick is that most fans had renewed their Nittany Lion Club membership and season tickets before any on the following disasters that occurred last July 2012:
-- the BOT's tacit acceptance of (the fraudulent) Freeh Report;
-- the University's removal of Paterno's statue and criticisms of Paterno;
-- the BOT's roll-over to the NCAA in accepting sanctions;
-- the BOT's effort to get the alumni and fans to "move forward," and;
-- the overall disrespect shown by the BOT to PSU alumni and fans.
Given all this ill-will by the PSU BOT towards the alumni, who only want to know the truth, the consequences of the BOT's actions would be exposed by indicators beginning in February 2013. Those markers were, in chronological order: Nittany Lion Club (NLC) dues (February); Club Seat and Suite licenses (March); and season ticket renewals (May).
Now that we are just weeks away from the 2013 season kicking off, little to no information about the indicators has been provided by PSU. To find out that information, you have to dig around to figure out what is happening.
Nittany Lion Club RenewalsThis information appears to be guarded better than Fort Knox. Typically, the NLC posts a spreadsheet of the priority point standings in the spring after the dues are collected -- but the 2013 point standings have not been posted. More openness and transparency?
However, years 2008 to 2012 were posted and the figures show a decline of nearly 1,500 members in the NLC from 2011 to 2012. Also, note that 2011, the first year of STEP, shows a spike in lower level contributors. That is exactly what STEP was supposed to encourage - bringing new fans to Beaver Stadium using the lure of premium seating. But it appears that 2011 was a fleeting success, as the new fans appear to have departed as quickly as they came.
Season Ticket Renewals and AttendanceThe fog continues around the number of season ticket renewals. While this number should have been known in May, it has become apparent that renewals are down. In a letter dated August 9th, 2013, the AD Joyner offered current season ticket holders the opportunity to purchase additional season tickets for just the price of the tickets, with no additional donation (of course, other terms apply). Current season ticket holders can only purchase up to the quantity of their 2013 donation level, so this offer is nothing more than the University asking the donor to purchase tickets for which he or she is already eligible.
The seats offered are in the red, yellow, and blue zones and are bench seats (based on the pricing of $385 per seat). Chair back seats are not part of the deal, thus the offer is likely aimed at filling the nosebleed seats right below the suites and press box. To obtain the seats, you must call the ticket office and cannot use Ticketmaster's virtual venue option.
While the actual number of renewals has yet to be released, Ben Jones of statecollege.com received this statement from the Athletic Department:
"Ticket numbers at this time of year continue to be active and a bit of a moving target," Associate Athletic Director Greg Myford told StateCollege.com. "But as it pertains to current season sales, total 2013 season tickets sold and paid in full to date is 89% of the season tickets purchased last year. As a point of reference, in recent years, the renewal rate has hovered between 91-95%. Obviously, that 89% will only increase as fans continue to purchase season tickets between now and the start of the season."
Based on press reports, PSU sold approximately 68,000 season tickets in 2012. If the renewal rate for 2013 ends up at 90%, the number translates to 61,200 season tickets.
Looking at the 2013 season, the average attendance for the games should be in the neighborhood of 91,000 or at 85% capacity. I arrived at this figure by adding projected season tickets (61,200) to student tickets (21,000) to other sales (8,000). The latter figure assumes that game day and outside sales will be at the same rate as 2012, which is probably optimistic.
Trends in attendance have been declining since 2007. The 2012 season was the fifth straight year of attendance declines at Beaver Stadium, but the bottom really did drop out last year. Attendance figures are as follows:
Average attendance in 2012 stood at 96,700, however, 2012 was notable as it notched six (6) of the ten smallest crowds in Beaver Stadium history since the 2001 expansion.
|1||90,358||Nov. 18, 2012||Penn State 45, Indiana 22|
|2||93,505||Nov. 24, 2012||Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21|
|3||93,680||Sep. 22, 2012||Penn State 24, Temple 13|
|4||95,636||Sep. 24, 2011||Penn State 34, Eastern Michigan 6|
|5||95,769||Oct. 6, 2012||Penn State 39, Northwestern 28|
|6||96,461||Sep. 3, 2011||Penn State 41, Indiana State 7|
|7||97,186||Sep. 1, 2012||Ohio 24, Penn State 14|
|8||97,828||Oct. 29, 2011||Penn State 10, Illinois 7|
|9||98,727||Sep. 10, 2005||Penn State 42, Cincinnati 24|
|10||98,792||Sep. 15, 2012||Penn State 34, Navy 7|
The declines in attendance were certainly not attributable to the exciting brand of football being played by O'Brien's Lions, but part of an overall declining trend in attendance exacerbated by the fallout of the Sandusky scandal (and by fall-out, I mean the actions of the BOT).
It's clear that PSU needs to figure out a way to get more fans in the seats in 2013, however, the ticket packaging option for the Michigan and Nebraska games being put forth by Joyner is more likely to drive fans away than bring fans in.
Ticket PackagingWhen I heard of the ticket bundling "offer" that requires the purchase of an Eastern Michigan ticket with the purchase of a single game Michigan ticket and the purchase of a Kent State ticket required for a purchase of a single game ticket with Nebraska, my mind immediately went to Pitt.
For the final PSU-Pitt game of the mini-series that ended in 2000, Pitt required the purchase of a Temple single game ticket with the purchase of a PSU ticket. Pitt usually deploys this tactic once a year when they get a marquee opponent on the schedule, such as Notre Dame or Ohio State. Essentially, at Pitt, it's a tactic aimed at visiting fans who will not attend the lesser game and take the loss on the ticket (or attempt to sell it on the secondary market).
Joyner Described the new packaging this way:
“The thought process was, ‘How do we stimulate continued interest in our football games? How do we stimulate people to want to come to the stadium?’ ” Joyner said. “It’s just a new way of looking at it. How we’re going to market those games and get people in the stands.”
Let me go out on a limb here and say a much more honest and effective approach to market those games with Eastern Michigan and Kent State and to get people in the stands would be to REDUCE the prices of tickets.
Dr. Joyner's rationale behind ticket packaging - much like the EMU and KSU tickets themselves - isn't going to be bought by many.
And it's this kind of dishonesty by Joyner and his former cohorts on the BOT that is contributing mightily to turning fans away from Beaver Stadium.
Full disclosure: I kept my season tickets and attended all but one game in 2012 (missed Wisconsin due to deer hunting) and have kept my season tickets for this year.