As it turns out, the Big House wasn't filled in a day, but Michigan is working on a plan to change that.
That effort has started with an alteration to the general admission policy for students, which lasted a whopping one year. By and large, the policy, which sat students based on how early they arrived rather than class, was despised.
According to a U-M student government survey last October, 77 percent of the student body disapproved of the policy (H/T MLive.com).
So Michigan made a change, and it appears for the better. According to of MLive.com, the new student admission policy maintains the spirit of showing up to games early but adds in a loyalty component:
The new student seating policy will be phased in during the 2014 season and take full effect in 2015. During 2014, returning students who attended at least five games on time during the 2013 football season will get preferred seats. All other seats will be based on seniority.
By 2015, seat reservations will be based entirely on loyalty. Attendance points will be accumulated the following ways: each game attended is three points and arriving 30 minutes prior to kickoff earns an additional three points per game, for a total of six points per game.
If a student shows up early and often, this new policy should be music to their ears. If attendance is optional for another student, then it likely matters little to them where they sit anyway.
Student attendance is an issue that affects more than just Michigan. In fact, attendance in general across college football has been a problem in recent years. As recently as October, Alabama coach Nick Saban criticized fans for leaving games early (a different type of problem, but a problem in his eyes nonetheless).
Early kickoffs, the emergence of high-definition streaming video and an increase in television coverage has made going to the game a secondary option.
Universities are fighting a multi-front battle to try to entice all fans, from students to alumni and everyone in between, to show up on Saturdays.
What Michigan is doing potentially solves one aspect of the greater attendance conundrum. Other programs should take a hard look at it, too.
Take Texas, for example. Longhorns cornerback Quandre Diggs expressed frustration over student attendance last month. His suggestion was to put students closer to the field. Though Texas has the Longhorn All-Sports Package (LASP), which only provides students with access to tickets, Michigan's new admission policy could work in a similar way for UT football games.
If the university monitors which students show up early for every game, they will be given access to better seats in the following year's draw.
Then, it's not a question about when a student showed up to the "first-come, first-serve" ticket draw as much as it is about when the student shows up to the game—at least past the first year.
Interestingly, Michigan's new student admission policy came from a close working relationship with its student government. That goes to show that perhaps major college football programs don't have it all figured out.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report.
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