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Penn State Football: Michigan Woes A Reminder Student Ticket Sales Aren't A Guarantee

by on June 13, 2014 10:10 AM

Penn State's student section has always been a staple of the program's modern success. Maybe students don't always show up on time, but at the end of the day they're considered some of the best in college football for a reason.

But there is no guarantee that it will always be that way.

As Michigan is finding out, big screen HD TVs, ticket prices, and logistical hurdles can be all it takes to turn a student section into an empty gap in your otherwise attractive venue. For $252, Michigan students could take in the sights and sounds at one of the largest stadiums in the world. But after a while -- especially considering the on-field product -- it's apparently not worth the price of admission.

"Last week, the Michigan athletic department admitted what many had long suspected: student football ticket sales are down, way down, from about 21,000 in 2012 to a projected 13,000-14,000 this fall." John Bacon wrote last week.

Bacon goes into more detail about Michigan's failures to fill the student section in a blog post you can read here. Some problems are more specific to Michigan but there's an unmistakeable message: schools can't just assume students will show up because students always have. It's expensive and schools have to make the experience worth the money. All of the above factors have impacted regular season ticket holders and "the college experience" doesn't have to happen inside a football stadium.

At Penn State, the cost of tickets is the third highest in the conference at $218 behind Ohio State and Michigan. Even so, students are still forking over the money to watch a team that couldn't win a conference title even if it went undefeated.

You might say that means Penn State doesn't have issues to address, but consider the following:

Heading into Penn State's homecoming showdown with Michigan, Penn State athletics announced that the student section had been oversold for that game. As a result, students were given a handful of options that included a ticket to the game not in the student section, a THON donation, or tickets for next season. A fair compromise for what was presented as a mistake.

What Penn State never mentioned though was that student tickets are sold as a season package. Students don't get to pick and choose which games they want to see. So if the Michigan game was oversold, it's quite possible that the rest of the games were oversold as well. The only difference between Michigan and the rest of the year? Students were guaranteed to show up, and they did.

And that's where the potential problem lies. The student section has rarely been packed on a weekly basis over the past few years even though ticket packages might still be selling out. If a good number of students aren't going to the games it would seem it's only a matter of time before they stop buying the tickets in the first place.

Admittedly, James Franklin's ability to drum up excitement and the general allure of going to Penn State football game be enough to keep ticket sales going. New scoreboards will go a long way toward improving the fan experience and the sanctions will be over sooner rather than later. But ultimately Penn State students are paying more money than nearly everyone in the conference to watch a team that has nothing really tangible to play for and is outnumbered week after week.

The problems might be hypothetical -- perhaps avoidable -- but that doesn't mean they are unreasonable.

Just ask Michigan.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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