The NCAA has released the final 2009 football season attendance figures and as expected the list contains the likes of Michigan (1), Penn State (2), and Ohio State (3). In all the Big Ten had 7 schools rank in the top 30 in total attendance figures for the season (Wisconsin (15), Michigan State (19), Iowa (21), and Illinois (29) were the other 4 in case you were wondering – and I’m sure you were). The full NCAA release can be found here.
All you Hoosier fans can stop looking for Indiana on that list of top 30 numbers – they aren’t on there and most likely won’t be for quite awhile (unless the NCAA starts allowing booze to be sold in their stadiums). I’m a realist and I know that it takes awhile to grow a fan-base that has never experienced winning.
Where you will find Indiana on that list is #3 in “2009 Division I football Largest Average Attendance Increase From Previous Year”. In 2009 Indiana’s average attendance jumped from 31,782 to 41,833 – A per game increase of 10,051. For a perennial cellar dweller coming off of a 3-9 season you don’t usually see numbers like that.
You’d like to think that those numbers correlate to a winning season for the Hoosiers, however the 2009 season will largely be looked upon as a 4-8 catastrophe that saw the Hoosiers once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on a few occasions (The 28-3 blown lead at NW I watched in person comes to mind). Those 41,833 fans no doubt were disappointed in the Hoosiers 2009 season, however, there were glimpses of where this young team is headed (Hint: Up…). There will be more to come on this once spring football starts up.
The winning vs attendance argument has been going on for years at IU and has largely been a chicken vs egg situation.
Glass has taken the approach of “if you build it (and make it really fun) they will come”. Prior to the 2009 season IU opened up their brand new addition to Memorial Stadium and unveiled some new marketing strategies to get people in the door and according to those NCAA numbers – it worked. Glass preached a brand new “Gameday Experience” that included making the games more family friendly as well as offering students significantly discounted tickets.
Glass has come under fire in the past for retaining Bill Lynch and saying “Contracts need to mean something at IU” as well as moving a 2010 home football game against Penn State to Fedex Field for $3 million. I think that he is a guy who understands the big picture. Rome wasn’t built in a day…and IU football success will not be either. The attendance figures are a nice start – now it is up to Lynch and his players to work on that elusive winning part.