April 13, 2012

Facts and figures: Rising costs on U-M game day

The band taking the field just minutes prior to a vital conference matchup.

The Maize and Blue cascading under the "M Club" banner fueled by the roar of a raucous Big House crowd.

The chorus of 110,000 rabid Wolverines belting out the "The Victors" in unison after a big play.

The student section streaming onto the field in elation after a key victory against a bitter rival.

All are priceless moments witness by Wolverine faithful on a select few fall Saturdays, in theory. But that theory may be tested sooner rather than later for many loyal fans.

For the second consecutive season, the U-M athletic department has increased season ticket prices. At $390 total for six home contests, or $65 per game (up from $60 a season ago), football at Michigan Stadium continues to be one of the hottest, and priciest, tickets in college football. But how does the rest of the Big Ten stack up?

  • Only Ohio State charges more per game for season ticket holders at $70 ($560 total for an eight game slate), and only Nebraska ($56), Iowa ($55.43) and Penn State ($55) top the $55 per game mark. At the other end of the spectrum, fans of Minnesota ($39.29), Purdue ($39), Indiana ($38.33), and Northwestern ($37. 43) can all purchase high-end season tickets for less than $40 per matchup.

  • The cheapest season tickets in the Big Ten can be found at Illinois and Purdue, who both offer value packages around $14 per game, while the the best value in the conference may be in Madison where a season pass to watch defending-Big Ten Champion Wisconsin rings in at a total of $294 ($42 per game).

  • The average starting price to attend a Big Ten football game as a season ticket holder is $42.90 per matchup.Take Michigan and Ohio State out of the equation and the average price drops almost $5 a game to $37.94.

  • Michigan's $390 season total for six games is pricier than what Illinois (ranging from $99 - $315), Indiana ($230), Iowa ($388), Michigan State ($308), Minnesota ($275), Northwestern (ranging from $152- $262), Penn State ($385) and Wisconsin ($294) charge for a seven game slate.

  • U-M's $5 per game increase (8.3 percent) is the most monetarily by a conference member this season, however it is not the only institution to hike up the prices. Despite losing their most popular player in quarterback Dan Persa to graduation, Northwestern increased its season ticket prices by $3 per game to $37.43 (8.7 percent). Season tickets are also $2 more expensive for Iowa fans at $55.43 per game (3.7 percent).

  • Conversely, Illinois has dropped the average price of once-coveted sideline seating from $40 per game to $32.86 (-17.9 percent) after average attendance in Champaign dropped nearly 10,000 between the 2009 and 2011 seasons.

    Michigan fans seeking individual tickets will also have to pony up more dough. It will cost consumers $95 to watch U-M clash against rival MSU in a 'premium game', and $75 for its other five home contests - up $5 dollars from a season ago.

    To put that in perspective, individual-game tickets for the Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama, widely regarded as one of the fiercest rivalries in the sport, carry an 85$ face value. Individual tickets from the rematch of last season's BCS Title Game between Alabama and LSU at Death Valley are initially priced at $70.

    Is the money worth it?

    A quick scouring of StubHub.com, one of the world's largest legitimate secondary ticket markets, gives a strong positive indication. Michigan football season-ticket packages start at $650, and the cheapest individual ticket one can find for the Michigan State game is $225 (as of April 13, 2012). There isn't even a ticket to the UMass game priced under $84.

    College football has evolved into a major corporation, and even in the down years of the Rich Rodriguez era, the Block M has proven to be one of its hottest commodities.

    Since 2009, the value of Michigan football's already power brand has grown 15 percent, according to an article published by Forbes.com in Dec. 2011. In the same article, the Wolverines are ranked the fifth-most valuable team in college football, and have plenty of room to grow as U-M continues to reestablish itself as a traditional national power under head coach Brady Hoke.

    It is no surprise, then, that the Michigan game day experience will continue to be priced up to market. While the figures necessary to enjoy this second-to-none atmosphere will continue to climb in the years to come, the fact remains that demand is there, and Big House will be packed and rocking for foreseeable future.

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