Photo: USA Today Sports

Michigan student attendance dropping. Blame the schedule?

The University of Michigan is expecting to once again see crowds of over 100,000 attend each game in Michigan Stadium this fall, but that number will apparently see a smaller portion of students coming to games.

“We’re projecting that number to be somewhere between 13 or 14,000 for student ticket numbers this year,” Michigan associate athletic director of media and public relations Dave Ablauf said in a report by Michigan beat reporter Nick Baumgardner for MLive.com. “(That number was at) about 19,000 last year. We don’t have a finalized number (yet), that’s just an approximation because all the incoming freshmen haven’t put in their orders yet. But we know that returning student numbers are down.”

Is there really a cause for alarm in Ann Arbor? I do not see it, not when the reduced student section is still going to be 13,000 to 14,000 strong. Sure, percentage wise it may pale in comparison to what it was in recent years and the student crowds that may turn up at other Big Ten schools like Ohio State and Penn State, but does that really matter in the grand scheme of things?

Jim of Lost Lettermen is a loyal Michigan alum, so his reaction to the Michiagn news is worth mentioning, but I would not quite go to this extreme just yet. The problem seems to merely be Michigan football is no longer living up to the potential it is perceived to have. The Wolverines have taken a step back each year since Brady Hoke’s debut season in Ann Arbor, which is why I feel the pressure has to be rising on Hoke this season. It is pretty common that a team that is regressing will draw less interest from fans, including students. If Michigan was turning out results keeping the Wolverines in contention for a Big Ten title, the student attendance numbers would likely turn around. In this day and age of sports, when money can be tight, we are all looking for the best ways to spend are hard-earned cash. If the product is not worth the price of admission, then we will not be spending it. Caring about a team, to me, is not one that is directly valued by how much money you spend on a team, but I do understand the sentiment as Michigan attempts to turn things around.

Michigan is simply working through something that is happening around the sport of college football, one that has even caused some reporters of various schools to take shots at students for not showing up on time or at all. Having covered Penn State games in recent years I have seen this first hand, but to take aim at students when there are empty seats elsewhere in the stadium seems kind of cheesy to me. Even Alabama has seen attendance problems with students that led to Nick Saban suggesting some changes should be made.

“This (student turnout) would be a low number for us in terms of student season tickets, it’s [unfortunately] part of a national trend as student numbers are dropping across the board,” Ablauf said in the MLive.com report. ”(But the general population of ticket sales, outside of students) is being projected pretty much the way that it always has been. We usually fluctuate anywhere, plus or minus, one percent. And we’re pretty much in that same area. The vast majority of tickets that are available are because student numbers are down.”

Michigan’s biggest problem in 2014 is the schedule. The biggest games on the schedule (Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan State) will all be played on the road. The biggest highlight on the home schedule is a primetime game against Penn State. The rest of the schedule includes games against Appalachian State, Miami (OH), Utah, Minnesota, Indiana and Big Ten newcomer Maryland. Sure, the Little Brown Jug might be nice but the rest of the home schedule lacks a ton of excitement for Michigan fans this season. The 2015 schedule should be a bit more spicy with home games against Oregon State and BYU in non-conference play and home dates against the Spartans and Buckeyes in Big Ten play.

The bottom line, pun somewhat intended, is Michigan is still looking to pack over 100,000 fans into Michigan Stadium for each home game so the university is not going to be hurting as a result. Fewer students coming to games means more tickets available for other fans who are willing to pay for admission, and will likely pay more as a result.

Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. College Football Hall of Fame voter. Also managing Bloguin's NittanyLionsDen.com and Macho-Row.com.

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