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Empty Seats Inevitable for Some Schools

Sports Betting News - September 2nd, 2009 - Written by John

emptyThe spotlight will be on Doak Campbell Stadium Monday night when the historic rivalry between Florida State and Miami opens another chapter.

But like many schools this year, Florida State is scrambling to sell over 1,500 remaining tickets it has remaining. That's not the only problem, the Seminole Booster department is reporting a 13-percent drop in season ticket sales so far this year, and it stands to reason that all of FSU's home games will have empty seats.

But they're not alone. Many colleges are reporting a drop in sales due to cloudy economic conditions, including Purdue, Ohio State and Tennessee. The Boilermakers are reporting a staggering 17-percent decline while the Buckeyes and Volunteers are experiencing drops of only 1-3 points.

However, other schools are not feeling the impact at all. The University of Florida, just two hours southeast of Tallahassee, has not seen a drop in ticket demand, and continues to charge for it's student ticket packages without so much as a burp. The other three teams from last year's National Championship race-Texas,Oklahoma, and Southern Cal-have also had a stress-free summer at the ticket office.

So is it success that is driving ticket sales? After all, the four aforementioned teams struggling at the gate have also had problems producing on the field. Ohio State is the only school that has competed for the National Championship recently but was blown out in both 2006 and 2007 and is exhibit-A for those who claim the Big Ten is one of the weakest conferences in football.

Well, that may not exactly be it. the University of Michigan, recently flogged with questions about a clean program in the wake of it's worst season in 40 years, does not anticipate any decline in attendance. Officials told the AP that they expect the 106,201-seat stadium to be full every game as usual. It's neighbor, Michigan State, is seeing equal success, despite not being anywhere near the conversation of a Big Ten title last year.

The key for them, the AP reports, is coming up with creative ways to push their tickets and making it easier for John Doe to see a game despite financial worries. The school, like many other Universities are offering lower ticket prices, sometimes selling season-ticket packages at a lower cost than buying individual stubs, while offering mini-packages.

Florida State is offering a three-game package to see Miami, Georgia Tech and Maryland and is also extending deals to recent alumni. Those who graduated within the past three years are allowed to buy season-tickets at $179, marked off the public price of $266. Michigan State is delivering a similar deal, marking $133 off the public price for young alumni. The Vice President of Marketing at Seminole Boosters, Jerry Kutz, is also plugging his cause in various media outlets, writing positive preseason previews of the 'Noles and encouraging fans to buy tickets.

What's important about ticket sales, schools say, is that it creates a relationship between the spectator and the team, sometimes driving fans to want to donate. Because athletics are not totally state funded, school boosters have to pony up most of the cash needed to run a successful program. Many big donors rely their contributions on their own paycheck and with stocks and investments twirling down, money isn't exactly rushing in like it was years ago. And as tuition prices rising, funds for scholarships may not be able to catch up. Donations also cover all of the staff salaries, including buy-outs when things go sour. Last year, cutting ties with Tommy Tuberville, Phillip Fulmer and Tommy Bowden cost Auburn, Tennessee and Clemson a total of $15.5 million. That's spending cash that many schools just don't have.

"There definitely were some head coaches who survived last year's turnover due to financial constraints at their universities," Bill Carr, who runs Carr Sports Associates, Inc., which conducts coaching searches for universities, told Rivals.com. "And there probably will be even more this coming year."

Even the powerful machine that is the NFL is not immune to the struggling economy. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced yesterday that the San Diego Chargers and the Jacksonville Jaguars are among the teams who are in jeopardy of having their home games blacked out because of empty stadiums. Although this isn't the first time the Jaguars have had to scramble to avoid a blackout, it is still troubling news for the league-scrambling to find fans despite being as popular as ever.

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