Saturday, July 07, 2007

Possible Early Returns

With the impending release of the lottery results this week, ND also released a statement on the tix lottery yesterday.

Lots of "good news" for Irish fans, including promised increased availability for lottery participants overall, which is a good thing.

Lost in the kerfluffle of how demands for certain games ranked, however, was a brief mention of refunds:

Beginning July 16, the Notre Dame ticket office expects to mail refunds worth more than $8.6 million to unsuccessful lottery participants (the second-highest total in history, compared with refunds of $11.7 million a year ago).

On its face, this supports the theme of the release that more people got tickets than last year -- again, a good thing. But let's take a look at the math.

ND has the same number of games as last season, has the same home/away split as last season, received pretty close to (if not exactly) the same number of road game tickets as last season, and didn't add any seats to ND Stadium between last season and this.

This means, statistically speaking, the number of overall tickets available was the same in both 2006 and 2007. Assuming 5,000 seats for each road game (even though we sometimes get only 4,000) and 32,000 for each home game, that's 249,000 tickets going through this process (which I mention for the sake of completeness since the specific overall number isn't relevant to the discussion).

All of the games reached "sellout status", meaning the same number of tickets were won this season as were last. Given this equation...

[tickets won] + [tickets refunded] = total demand

...and knowing [tickets won] is the same for 2006 and 2007, one should be able to determine the overall demand change between seasons by looking at the number of tickets that were lost this season versus last. For the sake of simplicity, I'm assigning the ND home ticket price for all lost games, realizing some of the losses were for road contests that might have different prices.

$11,700,000 in refunds / $58 per ticket = 201,724 tickets in 2006

$8,600,000 in refunds / $62 per ticket = 138,710 tickets in 2007

Difference: 63,014 fewer tickets requested, a 31 percent drop from last year.

Yes, the prospects for ND football are slightly less "juicy" this season than last. There's no Brady Quinn Heisman Watch, and not a lot of people have ND in the National Championship race. So it's understandable people might not take the extra step to get to South Bend this year if there are other pressing things in their lives going on.

But I think it has a lot more to do with the compelling nature (or lack thereof) of the games in question. Instead of home contests against Michigan and Penn State, ND has three snorers in a row in November, including a glorified scrimmage against Duke. I'm anxious to see what kind of demand there was for those games, assuming the statistics are released.

The proponents of the 8-4-1 scheduling concept should take note of this precipitous fall in demand for this year. As the BGS guys so comprehensively covered it here, that model requires multiple body-bag games with teams that won't demand a return date in any contracts. In other words, plenty of Dukes, MAC squads, or other non-BCS-level competition. And as ND fans showed this season, they're not going to get their wallets out for crappy slates or non-compelling "neutral site" (in location only) contests.

I think the demand this year was rescued by grudge matches against SC and BC in South Bend, and 8-4-1 doesn't give you that every year -- heck, probably most years. If ND is going to have three or four compelling games every year, they're going to have to be willing to go on the road, just as they've always done.

Saying "we don't know how good we'll be in 2015" as justification for putting together weak slates ignores the obvious answer: keep hiring quality coaches who will recruit quality players, and ND should be just fine in 2015 and beyond, and capable of playing decent schedules.

The gravy train ain't gonna run for Duke and Ball State, that's for sure.

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Anonymous ndcs05 said...

The math isn't really as bad as it sounds. If there were 249,000 tickets won this year and 138,710 tickets lost, that means there were 387,710 tickets requested this year. Compare that to 249,000 + 201,724 = 450,724 tickets requested last year, and you can see that there were 86% as many requests this year as last year, meaning a 14 percent decrease. I really hate the new scheduling philosophy as well. It is unbelievable that next year, thousands of loyal alumni will be asked to shell out more than $60 each for a game against San Diego State, but certainly a portion of the decline can also be attributed to diminished expectations this year, no?

7/07/2007 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

While the percentage is certainly less (and I forgot I'd have to include the won tickets to make that math work), it still represents 63,014 fewer tickets requested. At 2 tickets per game, that's 31,507 fewer game requests from alumni this year than last.

If we assume every alum put in for SC, there are about 30,843 requests per game. That means, on average, every alum put in for one less game this year than he or she did last. I think that can be attributed to Duke's presence on the schedule rather than diminished expectations.

Even when expectations are down, people still want to go to ND to see games, especially after a season like last year when so many people got shut out of the lottery altogether.

7/07/2007 10:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Tom T said...

Ultimately the question is whether we should be scheduling teams like Duke or not, and I think the overwhelming response by ND alumni would be "NO", including myself.

7/07/2007 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous NDcivil03 said...

In the release they said chances of winning (at least 1 game) has increased for those who put in for all or most of the games. I find it tough to front money for 3 or 4 chances, let alone 8 or 9. The ticket office can spin the numbers any way they want, I'll accept the fact that I'll be in South Bend in Nov. from now on to see the opposition go from the Hostess truck to the Stadium.

7/07/2007 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to look at total seat demand for all ND games the problem seems to be minute. Some assumptions need to be made such as: (1) All ND games are sell out home and away. (2) Average staduim capacity is 80,000 (this is probably undrstated) Then 12 games at 80,000 is 9,600,000 plus the rejected requests. Do this for both years and the total difference is less than 1%. So the franchise is still very strong even with a weak home schedule.
Russ Delaney

7/07/2007 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Your total seat demand equation includes students, faculty, and season ticket holders, all of whom are going to get tickets for every game regardless and, unless they drop their tickets entirely (which is unlikely), are a poor indicator of year-to-year changes in demand.

It also assumes ND has access to all 80,000 tickets in those road venues, which isn't true -- ND gets only 4 to 5k tickets for those games.

My analysis was on alumni ticket demand, which is the most dynamic of all constituencies served by the ticket process.

7/07/2007 11:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Ted Eberle said...

ted said

I believe the expectations fans have for this coming year was reflected in the demand for tickets. If that is true, it is disappointing some Irish fans support their football team when the perceived chances for success on the field are greater. The schedule at the end is weaker, but ND pays it dues with eight consecutive games (no week off)that will be challenging.

7/07/2007 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous LLLLoyd Carr said...

While I agree with everything...remember that in terms of Duke, that was added late when the NCAA sanctioned a 12th game. Wolverinas took Appatitic State, we took Duke. None the less, the scheduling is getting pretty weak.

7/07/2007 12:12:00 PM  
Anonymous 09parent said...

Parents were only allowed to apply for two tickets this year as opposed to four in years past. This is potentially (and I realize this number is unrealistic) 16,000 fewer ticket applications. I wonder what the actual number might be? Personally, I think the decrease demand is due more to decreased expectations than the opponents.

7/07/2007 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

I understand Duke was a late-in-the-game addition, and most programs picked up patsys as their 12th game when the increase was announced.

I'm indicating how the ND ticket base feels about games like Duke and schedule setups like what ND has this year and an awful last three home games.

One-offs are one thing. I don't want this to become policy.

7/07/2007 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

parents previously got 4 tickets for two games or 64000 tickets. now it is 2or 4 (average 3) for two games or 24000 tickets. theres 40000 seats right there.

7/07/2007 12:44:00 PM  
Anonymous John said...

I too would like to see the demand for the Duke, Navy, and Air Force games. In previous years I would put in for every game in hopes of getting 1-2 games. I wasn't about to pay $62 for a ticket to one of those games. The price of tickets have gotten out of hand in my opinion, especially for the likes of Duke, Navy, Air Force, Army, San Diego State, etc. The 'market value' of those games is about $35. I couldn't sell extra tickets to Stanford last year for $15 per.

7/07/2007 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In addition to the limit on parent requests, several types of "duplicate applications" were also eliminated this year. In the past I always received 2 applications -- one for each "donor level." This year, they were combined. If other multiple application candidates (e.g., Monogram Club, etc.) were also consolidated, that could make a reasonable difference in the "requests" column.

7/07/2007 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think all of us don't like the idea of playing these uninteresting games. I'm not sure you need this "evidence" to support your case though. I can just as easily propose that the decrease in numbers requested came from the fact that so many of us got shut out last year and did not see the need to write $900 checks this time.

The television ratings will tell the story you are looking for better than these numbers.

7/07/2007 01:12:00 PM  
Anonymous meghan said...

along with parents only allowed to get two tickets per game they are only gaurenteed tickets to one game instead of two as in past years.

its good new for alumni but crappy news for parents and students alike.

so my guess is there are more alumni getting tickets (especially since they made duke an alumni game) so the demand probably didnt go down that much but I'm sure it did since the USC game had less of a demand than the PSU one did last year

7/07/2007 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous JVH said...

Kabong, nice piece.

Any chance the number of season ticket holders is less than last year? Notre Dame really stuck it to season ticket holders this year asking for $1000, $1500, or $2000 per ticket/ per year(depending on location of the seats.) I personally know a few season ticket holders that did not renew due to the higher costs.

If it is the case, not only would more seats be added to the lottery(thus reducing the amount of refunds), but also better seats would be added as well.

7/07/2007 01:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am curious to see if there was a drop off in ticket applications from recent graduates. Being a poor medical student right now, it is not easy to donate $100 (and then $200 next year) just for the "chance" of getting tickets. Since ND certainly pumps out its fair share of new medical, law, and other graduate students each year, it may be fair to say this group won't be submitting as many applications in the coming years.

7/07/2007 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

I realize parent allocation was reduced. However, (a) I'm not sure the parent allocation came from the 32k in the alumni lottery, and (b) to assume that kind of drop means not only did all parents apply but also that they applies for all the tickets for all the games available, which was often not the case.

7/07/2007 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Philip said...

To anonymous at 3:14:

It's not just the poor medical students and professional students. ND actively encourages its seniors to pursue post-graduate service opportunities. Can ACE or other service program participants afford tickets? Additionally, as a future doctor, you'll easily be able to afford to join the Sorin Society in future years and get all of the games that you want. Will those who go into less lucrative fields annually be able to afford to come to a game? Probably not.

The alternate way to look at this is to say that there's no guarantee that any alumni should be able to come to a game. If ND has no problem with price discrimination amongst its alumni, then your concerns really aren't an issue. We assume that ND wants its alumni to each come back once a year for a game. That's probably not necessarily true, or the ticketing policies would be far different.

7/07/2007 05:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would anyone be surprised that a team that easily could go 6-6 generates significantly less demand than one that was supposed to contend for the first national title in 18 years?Also,is it possible that there is a little less enthusiasm after last year's three blowout losses?The 7-4-1 schedule won't affect demand.Team performance,both actual and anticipated,will.

7/07/2007 05:23:00 PM  
Anonymous mjrnd80 said...

Wow! This is an amazing analysis of ticket demand, scheduling, etc. Personally, I think a weekend at ND is great no matter who they are playing for most people. I also think a lot of people find it easier to go to the later games because their kids are done with soccer, etc.
These are usually patsies but still a great weekend at the Dome. I do think the cost to keep season tickets may be a part of the equation as I have talked to several people who are trying discreetly to "share" their season tickets to offload the cost of the big hit to keep them.

7/07/2007 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ticket sale requests may be down but the real market for game tickets is unknown because ND only offers tickets to a few groups such as long time season ticket holders, alumni, employees etc. There is no public ticket sale like the Michigans, Tennessees, Ohio States and Penn States. If ND held a public ticket sale I suspect that a 200,000 seat stadium could be easily filled.

Bottom line is that if the alumni lottery ever fails to sellout the stadium there are probably a minimum hundred thousand ND fans that would give their left hand to purchase ND tickets. There are thousands of fans willing to pay several multiples of face value for game tickets via ebay, brokers and direct sales. Even during the down years of Davie and Willingham the stadium was easily sold out without a public ticket sale.

7/08/2007 07:36:00 AM  
Blogger pete said...

Ticket analyses are always interesting.

But the key factor I think was not mentioned and that is that the stadium is always sold out WITHOUT a public sale of tickets. And this happens year after year even in the down years of Faust, Davie and Willingham.

I believe that a 200,000 seat stadium could be soldout for every game every year if there were a public ticket sale. So I would say not to worry about a significant alumni ticket demand decrease, it is only good news for the millions of ND fans across the country.

7/08/2007 07:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would agree with the suggestion that the recent upping of the "donation" requirement has caused a decrease in applications. I know it affected me. Now my total cost to (maybe) get two tickets via the lottery is $324 (based on $200 (donation) + $124 (ticket cost)). And I'd likely get crappy seats (I usually do) -- if I win the lottery. I'm pretty sure I can get two decent seats for less than $162 per from "scalpers."

7/08/2007 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger tim said...

There may be more tickets available this season due to the new pricing. I know of a couple long-time season ticket holders who did not take the tickets this year. I assume thise were added to the pool.

7/08/2007 08:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Noonan said...

having too many cupcakes on the schedule is like adding a loss. If you're going for a NC, or even a BCS bid, and you have 1 loss to a USC or Michigan or whoever, if you have a weak schedule, there is no redeeming balance. Plus, if we play cupcakes, our own guys are not going to be as good against real competition. Drop Duke, drop to 1 military academy, drop SD State, drop all such cupcakes. Add Texas, Ohio State, Florida, South Carolina, LSU, etc.

When we have a schedule like that, we can tell recruits that when they succeed at Notre Dame, everybody will know how good they are. They will be in the national spotlight every week. And in our better years, they'll be part of a NC.

7/08/2007 09:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Timothy said...

The gravy train ain't gonna run for Duke and Ball State, that's for sure.

So when does ND play Ball State? That I'd pay for...

7/08/2007 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Judge said...

I guess everyone above can agree that the stadium will be sold out every game. So be it.

Someone made reference to TV attendance. Cable and satellite provide plenty of Saturday afternoon games. It’s no longer a three channel world.

I have to ensure I’ll be at home for Duke and other ‘lighter’ games because there will be will be more interesting match ups. I eagerly watch to see how the young bench warmers perform.

Games on ABC have not been boring and ESPN seems delighted to pick up the silly games. But for how long?

I recall two years ago anxiously awaiting CBS’s scheduled game with Navy. Come game time the local franchise substitutes the Seminoles.

This will be the first chink in the armor, when we’re no longer able to find a listing for away games.

Maybe it’s good we don’t play Duke away; I mean who would broadcast it?

7/08/2007 12:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not an alumn, but I'm a big ND fan. I agree that the weak schedule probably contributed to drop in demand for lottery tickets this year, but I'd also agree that there were other factors. I actually purchased tickets to the Duke game via Duke (away tickets). Although, I'd much rather have tickets to the SC game, that's not an option for me so I'll take what I can get.

Having said all that, I think that it's a huge mistake to schedule these weak opponents because it will have a big negative impact on the NBC ratings. While I'll always tune in to see ND play, many will not tune in to see them play the likes of a San Diego State. Big mistake to adversely impact the NBC ratings. ND's tough schedule is part of their appeal and brand. Don't mess with the brand folks!

7/08/2007 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I think you all miss a few things. First there were 5000 "new" Season Tickets put up for sale for the first time in many years. THis was totally sepearate from the lottery. If you wanted 4 tickets per game it would cost you anywhere from $4000 to $8000 per season above the cost of the ticket for 10 years. This will finance the upgrade of the lower bowl. Also a previous similar program ended last year and those tickets could only be renewed with similar higher fees. Only if you know how many people did not renew can you do any kind of math. All of the math calculations are simply an exercise in futility anyway but knock yourself out............Some of the later games will give some people and parents a chance to attend an ND game for the first time. No matter who they play it is a special experience. Some of you are too cynical now.

7/08/2007 08:17:00 PM  
Anonymous kbyrnes said...

What I like about this thread is that many of the different themes of ND football are mentioned:

* Ticket demand as a function of rational expectations for the season's performance
* Ticket demand as a function of emotional responses to last year
* Ticket demand with a large inelastic component
* Strength of schedule for BCS rating purposes
* Strength of schedule for TV rating purposes
* Strength of schedule to justify (or failing to justify) ticket prices
* Ticket sale policies being used to finance stadium construction
* Game day as a great experience whether it's September or November, USC or Duke (mjrnd80, joe)
* Last but not least: trying to tease patterns from the bits of data available, like pre-election pollsters (if not WWII cryptographers). And like the pre-election public, we find these morsels quite tasty, even if they can't completely satisfy.

7/08/2007 11:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Domer05 said...

I think the ticket office is a bit misleading when they claim to have made better lottery results for alums. Notice the disclaimer that people who apply for at least 5 games should win one.

There's only 4 good games this year, so if people apply for one of the others, then that's the one they're likely to win. On paper it might be better access to tickets, but my gut tells me I don't have a better shot at a good game than in the past.

7/09/2007 08:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let us not forget that in the late 1980's a team like Northwestern looked like a "glorified scrimage" when we scheduled them, and look how that turned out in '95. I think that we need to stick to the 6 power/BCS conferences and if there is a yawner in there like Baylor or Indiana now, there may be a sleeper in one of those teams that could provide a coup of sorts in scheduling them. Overall, we need to be more like the days of the Rock and say anytime and anywhere, so that I can go to games like Miami vs. ND in '90 or Fla. St. vs. ND in '93. The ND students deserve "electric" games like that so they can relive those games at every wkd they come back to South Bend.

7/09/2007 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree. "Every alum applying for USC" is a terrible assumption - why shell out for a game that it's highly unlikely to get? I and a lot of other people put in for the Duke game because that's the only way we can actually PLAN to get back together as opposed to only having 1/10 of us actually end up getting tickets. When you live far away, ND is a destination - who is playing is just a perk.

While I'd love to see a more exciting schedule, I'm not going to pull the fire alarm just yet here - I'd definitely agree with the poster who pointed out the changing rules, young team, and such. I think the TV ratings will indeed tell - I watch every game, but the variable public fan base doesn't necessarily.

Finally, can the darned season start already? I'm sick of every article these days whining about scheduling or Kevin White or both.

7/10/2007 09:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The author forgot 2 KEY things:

#1 - There was only ONE Alumni Family game this year, ie. dropping potentental ticket demand by 50% for 1 game. Parent ticket access was also cut by 50%+ for 2 games.

#2 - I have heard that ND got 20,000 more tickets for @ UCLA, if those had to be refunded at $75 each that would be an additional $1.5 million in refunds alone.

Oh . . . don't forget the $8.6 is still way above $5.4 - the previous high. Demand for ND football still remains crazy as ever!

Then again, enough about tickets, let's talk FB!

7/12/2007 03:57:00 PM  

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