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Posted on Sat, Apr 10, 2010 : 4:05 p.m.

Michigan sees attendance increase despite 15-17 basketball season

By Michael Rothstein

Despite a 15-17 season in which attendance fluctuated and then dropped over the final stretch of home games, the Michigan basketball team's overall attendance rose from one season ago, when the Wolverines made the NCAA tournament.

In 2008-09, Michigan averaged 6,772 fans a game in actual tickets scanned, and an announced attendance average of 10,568.

In 2009-10, the Wolverines averaged 7,265 scanned-tickets average through 16 games, with an announced average of 11,725. 

Scanned ticket statistics and announced attendance differ because scanned ticket numbers do not include basketball recruiting tickets, basketball player tickets, non-basketball recruiting tickets, tickets of people who enter Crisler Arena through the tunnel and human error.

Bodnar said approximately 400 to 500 tickets go unscanned per game for that reason.

Another reason for discrepancy in numbers is student ticketing. Michigan sold 2,537 student tickets, but didn't often come close to filling that number in the student section.

Scanned-ticket data was also incomplete for the 2009-10 season, because Michigan did not have figures for the Connecticut game on Jan. 17, one of the more well-attended Michigan games of the season.

Michigan associate athletic director for ticketing and marketing Marty Bodnar was pleased with the upward trend in both categories and attributed the rise, in part, to the fact the Wolverines played more home games on Saturday.

“We probably had less no-shows in 2009 than in 2008,” Bodnar said. “The data would show a little more consistency and I think that would generally be the case. We get better attendance when it is on a Saturday, at 4 o’clock, that’s probably the best time.

“Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, we had a string of Saturday games that really helped from an attendance standpoint and a purchasing standpoint.”

Michigan saw student season-ticket packages purchased jump from 900 in 2008-09 to 2,537 in 2009-2010. 

Of the 2,537 student tickets sold, Michigan averaged 1,066 students per game with the high coming for Michigan State (1,883 students) and the low coming in the second-to-last game against Illinois, when only 479 students showed up barely filling the bleachers right behind the team benches.

“It didn’t surprise me,” Bodnar said. “You get 2,500 students who buy tickets they can’t all make it. They’ve got busy schedules. They bought them with the football tickets, both returning students and new students. Roughly 2,100 were bought with football tickets and 4 or 500 were bought in September by other students.

“So overall we were pleased with the number of purchases.”

Part of the reason for good attendance early on came in part due to high expectations for Michigan’s 2009-10 team. 

More came from an incentive package that rewarded students who attended early-season games - they increased their chances at receiving bleacher seating for the Michigan State and Connecticut games.

Bodnar said the school will continue the incentive “voucher” plan for 2010-11, although reward games have yet to be determined.

Overall, Michigan had a season-high 11,330 people for the Michigan State game, the only time in 2009-10 the Wolverines had a ticket-scanned attendance over 10,000.

In comparison, Michigan had four 10,000-plus scanned crowds in 2008-09 - led by 11,645 against Michigan State.

Bodnar said he was pleased by Michigan’s attendance in 2009-10 but would like to see it better.

“Whether it’s attendance or it’s scanned, you always want to do better. Every year we evaluate and see how we can do things better and how we can market and how we can get the fan to decide to come to the game,” Bodnar said. “When they do come, we want them to have a good experience. Part of it is how the team performs on the court. The other part of it is the overall fan experience from the parking to concessions and whatever.

“I know with Dave Brandon on board as the new athletic director, he’s looking for ways to improve the fan experience and ways to improve it.”

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.


Jens Zorn

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 : 4:20 p.m.

I am surprised at the casual attitude about the truth of announcements regarding attendance figures. Why is it OK to add as much as 60% to the actual number of spectators when publishing attendance data from a basketball game? I can understand why a team's PR people might issue a higher number based on ticket sales, but doesn't the press have an obligation to make a more honest report? (Take a few crowd pictures and then count heads or make an estimate of the fraction of seats filled --- not so hard to do)