Ohio State sees drop in sale of season tickets

Joey Kaufman
Fans cheer in the first half of the NCAA college football game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. [Tyler Schank/Dispatch]

Season-ticket sales for Ohio State football games have seen the largest drop-off in at least a decade, according to an analysis of figures by The Dispatch.

The school sold 50,868 non-student season tickets for games this season, a 4.3 percent decrease from last season when it sold 53,151.

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Ticket figures spanning 10 years were provided this week in response to a public records request.

“It’s a national problem,” said Diana Sabau, the deputy athletic director who oversees football. “I don’t think it’s just Ohio State. I think it’s finally caught up to Ohio State, where other schools were starting to see it sooner.”

Attendance has sagged across the country, as the average attendance at Football Bowl Subdivision games last season was the lowest in 22 years. Ohio State’s announced attendance last fall remained among the highest in the nation but fell to 101,947, its lowest mark since 2000.

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Ohio State, led by first-year coach Ryan Day, opens the season Saturday against Florida Atlantic of Conference USA. The nonconference schedule does not include a game against a Power Five conference opponent.

Season-ticket sales have largely dropped over this decade, seeing a 7.4 percent decline since Urban Meyer’s first season in 2012 when Ohio State sold 54,947 non-student season tickets. The figures include those sold to the general public, as well as faculty and staff from the university.

For the latest drop, Sabau pointed to the absence of Michigan on the home schedule as the biggest factor, among other nationwide trends.

Industry analysts have in recent years highlighted a range of reasons for declining college football attendance, including the prevalence of televised games, affordability of big-screen TVs and varying kickoff times that make it less enticing for fans to sit in the stands instead of their living rooms. Ticket prices have increased as well.

With declining season-ticket numbers, Ohio State sold partial season tickets for the first time, offering fans multi-game packages that included three to four games. Sabau said the school sold about 6,000 partial season tickets and planned to introduce more options in the future.

“It definitely showed us that fans had an appetite for a smaller variety,” Sabau said. “Now we need to work on more combinations.”

One possibility was to include high-profile games in the mini-plans or more conference games. None of this season’s three mini-plans, for example, featured the Buckeyes’ penultimate regular-season game against Penn State.

Mini-plans could help offset season-ticket sales if they drop in future seasons. Until this season, Ohio State had sold only season tickets or individual tickets. As a way to draw fans, the school expanded Wi-Fi at Ohio Stadium and added other amenities.

“A large percentage of our fan base comes to a football game because it’s a social event,” Sabau said. “So how can we make that more social? I think that’s what we’re learning as well.”

Official capacity this season will be 102,780, remaining down from 104,944 two seasons ago, but an increase from 102,082 last season.


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