The most exciting games on Michigan’s schedule this season won’t be played in Ann Arbor, raising the possibility that the team’s streak of 100,000-plus attendees might be broken.
Last season’s 7-6 record along with a home schedule consisting of submarquee opponents such as Appalachian State and Maryland has put a serious dent in student season-ticket sales.
Michigan’s last home crowd below 100,000 came in 1975 when 95,857 people watched a 55-7 thumping of Indiana. Since then, there have 251 consecutive games in front of 100,000 fans or more.
Unpopular season-ticket policies gutted the student section last season, making the upper reaches of Michigan Stadium as empty as the Shapiro Undergraduate Library (aka the UGLI) on a Friday night.
Athletic director David Brandon, a polarizing figure on campus, discussed the student tickets slump with Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, saying:
I think there's a bit of a trend going on there, as I talk to my colleagues. But it is always a concern. We want a robust, filled student section. Our student section tends to go up and down from year to year. Clearly it's down this year versus last year, ... Our home schedule, we don't have any of our big rivalry games (this year), that could have an impact. Coming off a 7-6 season, that could have an impact.
Another factor impacting season-ticket sales is a recent trend to trade home games for high-profile neutral-site contests. Several years ago, fans were excited to hear that Michigan and Alabama would meet but were disappointed that the game took place in Texas, not Ann Arbor.
Michigan heads back to Texas in 2017 to play Florida. Fans and their descendants can look forward to Oklahoma visiting—in 2026.
The addition of Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten, while a boon to the conference's television footprint, further diminishes the home conference slate.
Michigan’s final home game this season versus Maryland just doesn’t have the appeal of a matchup with Ohio State.
Instead of bringing in top opponents, the athletic department has resorted to pregame spectacles and other gimmicks to entice fans.
A recent plan to add some sizzle to games this season by featuring fireworks was shot down by the university regents last week. Fans will now just have to rely on coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s new offense to provide sparks as the team looks to bounce back from last season’s disappointing record.
|Michigan Home Schedule|
|Saturday||August 30||Appalachian State|
|Saturday||September 13||Miami (Ohio)|
|Saturday||October 11||Penn State|
But even worse than hurting attendance, facing rivals Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State on the road puts Brady Hoke’s team at a distinct disadvantage.
Michigan is 19-2 under Hoke at home but only 6-8 (7-11 if you include neutral site contests) in games played away from Ann Arbor.
With a such a lackluster slate of home opponents, Hoke’s 19-2 record at home is looking pretty soft. If he can’t turn things around on the road, Michigan might be keep winning at home, but there might not be many people in stands as there used to be.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.