OSU Basketball Attendance Trends

Do you remember waiting in lines for days outside of Gill Coliseum for a men’s basketball game?  If you do, you were likely a student at OSU in the 1980s because there has not been crowds consistently filling Gill to capacity at any other time during the life of the facility.

The average per game attendance for men’s basketball in relation to capacity over the life of Gill Coliseum is shown in the graphic below.  Peak attendance was evident for a number of years in the early and mid-1980s but very competitive teams in the 1960s failed to draw capacity crowds on a regular basis.  The decline in attendance started even before Ralph Miller had retired and accelerated with the start of the long-losing streak in the 1990s.  There has been a recent upsurge in attendance following the hiring of Wayne Tinkle and return to the NCAA tournament.

OSU men's basketball attendance and Gill Coliseum capacity.

OSU men’s basketball attendance and Gill Coliseum capacity. (Click to enlarge)

The history for women’s basketball at OSU is far shorter and the records are harder to find.  The graphic below shows the average per game attendance for OSU women’s basketball.  Women’s basketball in general has lower attendance than men’s basketball even when the women’s team is really good and the men’s team is not.  There are two peaks in attendance for women’s basketball, both in periods of women’s basketball excellence at OSU.  The early peak was in the 1990s when OSU fielded some of its good teams.  OSU is currently in the other peak with the school fielding the program’s best ever teams populated with popular players, a combination that draws very large crowds for the sport.

OSU Women's basketball attendance and Gill Coliseum attendance.

OSU Women’s basketball attendance and Gill Coliseum attendance. (Click to enlarge)

OSU football ticket prices and attendance

The high cost of tickets in 2015 was a factor in the low attendance last season.  Using single game ticket prices as a barometer of pricing strategy reveals that there have been very large increases in ticket prices over time.  Here’s the prices for single game, non-club tickets for the 2015 season:

Weber State $40
San Jose State $50
Stanford $80
Colorado $80
UCLA $80
UW $80

The past practice has been to price tickets so that D-1AA (FCS) schools were the lowest priced tickets and non-conference opponents slightly lower than most conference opponents (base conference price).  There was also 1 or possibly 2 premium priced tickets for the Civil War or for UW.  That strategy was changed in 2015 season with all conference opponent tickets priced at premium levels and that approach has been continued in 2016:

Idaho State $35
Boise State $80
California $80
Utah $80
WSU $80
Arizona $80
Oregon $100

The price of tickets and fan interest in a particular opponent are two factors that govern ticket sales.  Single game ticket prices have risen dramatically since 2007.  This period was marked by Reser Stadium reaching its current capacity.  Ticket prices can also influence attendance, particularly among the buyers of single game tickets (see figure below – click to enlarge).

Ticket prices and attendance

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New Power 5 coaches and recruiting

The Power 5 conferences hired 7 new coaches at member schools in 2015.  These new coaches had mixed results in their first season on the playing field.  But how did these coaches perform in bringing in their first full recruiting class in 2016?

The 7 schools with new coaches were Oregon State (Gary Andersen), Michigan (Jim Harbaugh), Nebraska (Mike Riley), Florida (Jim McElwain), Kansas (David Beaty), Wisconsin (Paul Chryst) and Pitt (Pat Narduzzi).  While these programs all reside in Power 5 conferences, they vary greatly in their history of success in football.  Moreover, their success in recruiting is equally varied and plays a role in their success or lack thereof in the sport.   Below are some observations on these programs with new coaches and their Rivals national recruiting rankings:

  • Michigan’s 2016 class was ranked at 4 (1st all-time) and was above the long-term program average of 16 (10-3 in 2015).
  • Oregon State’s 2016 class was ranked at 41 (tied for 2nd best all-time) and was above the long-term program average of 49 (2-10 in 2015).
  • Wisconsin’s 2016 class was ranked at 35 (3rd best all-time) and was above the long-term program average of 45 (10-3 in 2015).
  • Pitt’s 2016 class was ranked at 30 (4th) and was above the long-term program average of 39 (8-5 in 2015).
  • Nebraska’s 2016 class was ranked at 25 (tied for 6th) and was at the long-term program average of 25 (6-7 in 2015).
  • Florida’s 2016 class was ranked at 14 (8th) and was below the long-term program average of 9 (10-4 in 2015).
  • Kansas’s 2016 class was ranked at 95 (lowest all-time) and was below the long-term program average of 54 (0-12 in 2015).

Four of the 7 programs had the benefit of winning seasons in 2015 to assist in recruiting while the other 3 did not.  For the programs with winning seasons, 3 of them showed improvement in recruiting ranking over their long-term averages while Florida experienced below average recruiting.  Among programs without winning seasons, only Oregon State had a 2016 recruiting class that surpassed the program average.  OSU’s recruiting climbed 8 spots over the average despite the really poor record in 2015.  Recruiting at Kansas dropped into the abyss in coach David Beaty’s first season, mirroring the results on the field in 2015.

Oregon State, Michigan, Florida, and Pitt all had their worst ever ranked recruiting classes in 2015 – a transition year between coaching staffs.  All of these programs but Florida rebounded in 2016 with higher than average recruiting classes.  Michigan had their best ever class in 2016 while both OSU and Pitt had classes among the top 4 all-time at the schools.  Wisconsin improved slightly from 2015 (37) to 2016 (35).  Gary Andersen and his staff produced the highest ever ranked class at Wisconsin (33) in 2014.  Nebraska improved from below average in 2015 (31) to average in 2016 (25).  Kansas fell from 66 in 2015 to 95 in 2016, a new record low in recruiting for the program!

Andersen produced the best ever recruiting classes at Utah State (2011) and at Wisconsin (2014). To produce the top rated recruiting classes at two different schools means that you’re pretty good at recruiting. While the jury is still out on his recruiting to OSU, Andersen’s 2016 class was tied for 2nd best ever at OSU.

OSU Football Attendance Trends

Football attendance at OSU took a step backwards in 2015.  Average per game attendance was 36,079 in 2015, the lowest per game average for a season since the 2000 season.  A big year over year jump in single game ticket prices, inconvenient game times, and poor performance of the team combined to cause the drop in attendance in 2015.

Attendance trends

Nevertheless, the long-term trend in attendance is upward despite the recent downward dip in attendance.  The other consideration is the relationship of attendance to capacity.  For most of the history of Parker/Reser Stadium, the gap between attendance and capacity was quite large.  That gap narrowed and for a time was negligible in the early 2000s.

When Reser Stadium was expanded in 2005 and again in 2007, the gap between capacity and attendance widened again, but was still small from a historical perspective.  The gap grew again in 2015.

The role that ticket prices play in attendance and changes over time in prices will be examined in future posts.

OSU athletic department revenues have doubled

Data from the US Department of Education indicate that total revenues of OSU’s athletic department have doubled since the expansion of Reser Stadium in 2005.  Athletic department revenues reported in fiscal year 2015 were a record $72.1 million.  This is up by about $12 million in just the last two years.   OSU trails conference leader Stanford ($109.7 million) and the Pac-12 average ($85.6 million) but has risen in the rankings within the conference.  OSU is ahead of Colorado ($67.9 million), Washington State University ($66.1 million) and Utah ($64.6 million).  Rival Oregon has revenues just above the conference average at $85.8 million.

While OSU’s athletic department has a number of long-term financial constraints, it is encouraging to know that revenues have doubled since the expansion of Reser Stadium capacity.  And even though the Pac-12 media contract has failed to deliver the target revenues, this contract has added significantly to this gain in revenue.

The expansion of Reser Stadium capacity in 2005 and further expansion in 2007 changed the trajectory of revenue production by OSU.  The Pac-12 media contract was signed in 2011 and increased revenues were observed starting in the 2012 fiscal year.

OSU athletic department revenues