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EMU forces football fans to pay for football

April 4, 2014

Earlier this week, Carter wrote a thoughtful analysis of the increased ticket prices and new parking fees for EMU football games. He rightly points out that EMU still ranks among the lowest in prices of all BCS schools. Over the years, EMU football has been nothing if not a cheap date.

This has been out of necessity. EMU’s attendance problem has been well documented; it takes only rudimentary knowledge of economics to understand that higher prices will drive down attendance. EMU has therefore been forced to keep prices low. Economics also tells us that you can not charge more for an inferior product in a saturated market. Over the years, EMU football has been nothing if not an inferior product.

Are we to be galled at the price increases? The new $5 parking fee? It may surprise many of you, but I say no. When it comes to funding of the football program and Athletic Department, it is time for them to carry their own water, at least as much as possible. Ticket sales, parking fees, extra deposits so you can get the tingly thrill of a generic monthly e-mail from Chris Creighton or Heather Lyke — these are examples of football fans supporting the football program. That is probably how it should be.

At EMU, and to be fair most of the MAC, football is subsidized by students. Whether that is a good idea or not is a different column. If the increase in ticket prices and parking fees shift some of that burden away from the students, that is not a bad thing and we should therefore accept the price increases as necessary.

Having said that, does anyone really think that EMU students will see some kind of reduced burden in carrying the football program?

I’m told that winning will solve all of this. EMU President Susan Martin says they will “fill that stadium.”  The first empirical act to “fill that stadium” is to raise ticket prices. I know we are supposed to be slathering up in a big tub of Era of Excellence butter, but forgive me if I want to see results on the football field. Like I’ve said before, we don’t need an era. EMU football fans will be satisfied with four quarters of excellence.

Chris Creighton seems to be doing a fine job, and is a very positive public face for EMU football. Let’s be realistic, though, he hasn’t coached one quarter of a football game at EMU. We don’t know what he is capable of as a coach.

More than a win-loss record, the very future of EMU football is at stake for Creighton. If he succeeds, then it has been proven that it can be done and EMU football will march on. If the Era of Excellence fails, then it may be curtains for EMU football as it exists today.

Ticket price increases, parking fees, $400,000 salaries (plus bonuses), a bloated Athletic Department. Something will have to give. Creighton has my support for the next five years. Barring a Ron English-esque 2-22 start in his first two seasons, I will see that support through.

If, despite the best efforts of Chris Creighton, Heather Lyke, and Susan Martin, football continues to exist in a morass, then EMU needs to either drop to FCS or disband football altogether.

Football should be fun, it should bring the EMU community together. If it isn’t doing that, then what is the purpose? Football at EMU does not have some kind of inherent right to permanent existence. Football does not have the right to be a black hole, sucking money away from student services or academic opportunities.

If keeping this program on track while Creighton tries to build a winner means increased ticket prices and parking fees, so be it. There is nothing wrong with making football fans pay for football. It will be up to EMU season ticket holders and fans to decide if they are throwing bad money after good.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. EMU Prof permalink
    April 4, 2014 12:13 pm

    Well said.

  2. Ken permalink
    April 4, 2014 1:01 pm

    On first blush, my instinct was that it was stupid to raise ticket prices while they are having attendance problems. I suspect that they will always have attendance problems unless they can build a consistently winning program. Given the changes afoot in D1A, I’m not sure they will be able to do that. That being said, based on the stuff I’ve heard about Creighton, he might be the person to do it….but we’ll see. It’s kind of hard to judge that until I actually see the team play under him.

  3. Kenneth Barna permalink
    April 5, 2014 12:16 pm

    Dear Jeremy,
    I am glad to see that you are willing to give the present administration a few years to see how things develop, but as you said, if it fails then Eastern should drop down to FCS football. That is not as simple as it sounds because it means having to drop out of the MAC. Now, if people don’t care about that association then it may not be an obstacle, but I do not believe that many fans understand that as a consequence.
    What student services would have money sucked away from them, if football would continue as we know it? (losing seasons) Or what academic programs are going to suffer, or not be available?
    In my opinion, it is up to the university administration to determine what is going to have money spent on various programs or services, and rightly or wrongly, they will be held accountable. A decision that they (administration) have obviously made is to increase ticket prices. Knowing as you have said, Eastern needs to increase the revenue stream to help pay for the athletic programs that are now part of Division One.

  4. April 5, 2014 2:57 pm

    Kenneth,

    I certainly hope that things do not deteriorate to the point that EMU is forced to to drop a division or abandon football. It may be unlikely, but were that to be the case the most logical move is to eliminate football and join the Horizon League with Detroit and Oakland.

    What could that pay for? Work/study programs for students. Library open more hours. Off-campus security in problem areas. Infrastructure upgrades and renovations. Paying adjunct profs a better wage. That is the tip of the iceberg.

    College football is changing. Student-athletes will be paid within the next five to ten years, and rightfully so. How will EMU afford that for a program as large as football?

    At this point it all comes down to Creighton. This program needs to win. He deserves time, but if he can’t do it, Eastern needs to seriously and objectively look at what the football program is doing for the university.

    • Ken permalink
      April 9, 2014 11:02 am

      Like I said in the article I posted on here a while ago, I think that we are going to have another split of Division I football. We are going to have the top tier teams (like Michigan) in their own division. I’m not sure if that means they will still play the bottom teams or not. Personally, I would rather see not. In the long run, I think it will make college football more competitive as teams like Michigan will be forced to schedule teams of their caliber in their offseason. So maybe that will stop the arms race for a while.

      And I agree with you…..Eastern needs to take a serious look at its football program. The only time it was really competitive was my freshman year. After that, it was other teams warmup team. Even the 6-6 year showed weaknesses.

  5. Kenneth Barna permalink
    April 5, 2014 8:14 pm

    Dear Jeremy,
    Thanks for the “Tip of the Iceberg” comments. I just didn’t think about infrastructure, or better police protection as things that may need more spending. Like you I hope that our football program can continue, and to prosper under Coach Creighton.

  6. Grady permalink
    April 5, 2014 11:57 pm

    Paying for parking is long over due. I paid for parking in the late 80s and we can all afford $ for a singe game. The game tickets are still a great deal, especially if you purchase in advance. Not comparing apples and pears, but two single season tickets and parking for every game is still cheaper than the crappiest single U-M game + parking. And you get lots of leg room at our games.

    Folks, there are only a dozen or so schools in the country whose athletic programs do not get subsidized by general funds … including all but the top Big Ten programs. EMU is on the worst ration of that scenario but we are hardly alone.

  7. April 10, 2014 9:05 pm

    I have no problem paying for parking. Long overdue. I have no problem paying double the rate of last year. I expected no less. In fact, I was one of the first to put my deposit down to renew my chairbacks after the new coach was hired. So when I got the bill for the remaining amount on my 2 seats I dutifully called only to be told I needed to read the brochure first. Did so only to find a misprint stating my tickets would now cost $1000 instead of last years $100. STICKER SHOCK! Calling back got me transferred to a friendly grad student who assured me it was only a 600% price increase not 1000%. Told them I’d have to think about that. Decided I simply cannot afford that steep an increase but could I please have 2 reserved seats (total $150) near where I used to sit. That’s when insult was added to injury. “Sorry, we can’t sell you any tickets until August. But we can take your name and add you to those wanting reserved seats.”. It just seems like fan loyalty means absolutely nothing unless you have big bucks to put down. Unfortunately, I do not. Students still get in free. But without a winning program, I fear EMU Football program will got he way of the Dodo. And that would be a shame. Regardless of what I decide re. tickets. Last years comeback against Western was the only game I’ve witnessed in Rynearson where fans were on their feet cheering the players to victory. That should not be a fluke. And if the practice I watched today is any indication, it won’t be. The coaches have the kids energized. But if they show up to an empty stadium. It make you wonder just how long they’ll last.

    • Jeremy Rosenberg permalink*
      April 10, 2014 10:40 pm

      Larry,

      The roll out of the ticket/parking increases has been another self-inflicted wound on the EMU Athletic Department. If the reasoning behind the new prices is to remain competitive, then just say that. Say it from day one when you first announce it until you answer to the last disgruntled season ticket holder. You thank them. You apologize. You treat the price changes as a regrettable necessity.

      What they should have done is first leak to the media that “price increases are under consideration.” You let that simmer for a few weeks, gauge public reaction, and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.

      Making “We’re still cheaper than everyone else” your raison d’etre for new prices is a facepalmingly bad strategy.

      It would have been much better if they sent an apologetic letter to season ticket holders, profusely thanking them for their support of their alma mater. Explain how the new prices will help EMU remain competitive. The football program’s most loyal fans want to see Eastern succeed. They’ll buy in, even if they gripe for a while. There was no need to make this a bad customer experience.

      The fact that Creighton appears to be a competent hire is certainly a positive. If he wins, season ticket holders will feel like the money was worth something.

      Thanks for reading. At Eagle Totem, we love our customers.

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