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Posted on Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

Frustrated by late-arriving or no-show students, Michigan AD Dave Brandon backing 'loyalty program'

By Kyle Meinke

LANSING -- Dave Brandon had never seen a water polo match until he became athletic director at the University of Michigan, and it became his job to be there.

Now that he's been exposed to it, he really loves the stuff.

He hopes implementing a "student loyalty program" would encourage students to make similar discoveries.

"The strategy is real clear, and that is we want to have more student involvement in all of our sports," Brandon said Monday after speaking at the Wolverine Caucus in Lansing. "It’s one thing to sell 21,000 football tickets, but it’s another thing to make sure our student body is aware of all these other talented student-athletes and showing up and cheering them on."

The loyalty program remains in its formative stages, but Brandon said he has a clear idea of what he hopes it will do: Reward students who attend non-revenue sports, as well as show up on time for revenue sports such as football and men's basketball.


Michigan students could be rewarded for attending non-revenue sporting events, and showing up early for football or basketball games, under a new loyalty program.

Melanie Maxwell |

He didn't say what the rewards would be, but other schools with similar programs offer priority seating at football and basketball games.

Brandon said he not only hopes to boost attendance across the Wolverines' 26 varsity sports, but also students' punctuality at football and basketball games.

It isn't uncommon to see the student section only a third full -- or worse -- for noon kickoffs.

"We want to get people there early," Brandon said. "It’s really frustrating to be at a football game when we’ve sold out all those seats, and you look up, and two-thirds of (the student seats) are empty.

"Basketball, the big games are everywhere, but on a different day, or maybe (against) different competition, sometimes those seats are too empty."

Brandon said Hunter Lochmann, Michigan's chief marketing officer, is the brains behind the initiative. There is no timetable for its release.

But there is a mold.

Brandon said Lochmann and his team have looked at "student loyalty" programs employed at other schools. He didn't name any of them, but Penn State and Michigan State are other Big Ten schools that feature similar systems.

The Spartans have had tremendous success with their basketball loyalty program, which requires students to swipe ID cards as they enter the Breslin Center. They receive points based on when they arrive -- earlier, the better.

MSU says it has helped boost Izzone attendance to more than 3,000 students, up from just a few dozen in the mid-1990s.

"We’re always looking at what other people do," Brandon said. "Sometimes, we think what they do is really smart and we steal it. Sometimes, we think what they do is really stupid, and don’t -- and that’s how you learn."

"What Hunter is trying to do is develop a program that will ... motivate students to get there earlier and to get there more often."

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Tue, Jun 12, 2012 : 1:01 a.m.

I think we should pass on these incentives to the senior citizen alumni as well, in the form of a season ticket holder discount, because they've shown loyalty over decades, Mr. Brandon... You move them around to accommodate others-- perhaps you should be rewarding them instead?


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

Can there also be a penalty assigned to those who don't show until later? It's embarrassing to have an empty student section, and extremely frustrating when you have so many other fans who would willingly be in those seats. Who cares if it starts at noon? It's the weekend, usually a beautiful fall day... all that could make it better is Keith Jackson's voice on the VCR when you get home and watch it again.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

I'm a true Michigan fan but must say that MSU does many things right.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 4:48 a.m.

I'm surprised no one has commented on how the student section getting to football games early and making the Big House uncomfortable for visitors is a good thing. Just negative, complainy pants commenting about Brandon grabbing money (aka his job). Why not get students to attend non-revenue sports? I doubt it would be that big of a piece of the equation regarding loyalty. You reserve the right to see it as a negative and I'll view the positive behind it.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 2:05 a.m.

Dave...If you gotta pay em, they ain't loyal. The loyal fans are there and on time. If you want better attendance at other venues than b'ball and football, publicize them, and be sure to have a free admission day on occasion.


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 12:57 a.m.

Control freak? Yup! There's only one IZZONE!

Blue Marker

Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 12:03 p.m.

They have the same type of program at MSU. But don't let facts get in the way of a zinging post!

Terry Redding

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 9:19 p.m.

Brandon's comments ring hollow. This somehow will morph into a way to get more money from the fan base. Case in point, if he cared about empty seats at game time and loyalty then why no comments from him about the blue section at basketball games????? Eventually the non-students make it into the arena and to their seats 1/3 to 1/2 way through the first half. Also, those of us who love basketball are a bit upset about the near doubling of seat prices (er, did I say price? I meant "voluntary donation to our student athletes") for season ticket holders for basketball. Another great Brandon stiff to the loyal fan base. You can read my name already, but sign me a disappointed alumni and season ticket holder for 12 years. ps. - easy to pick on the students, they pay least of anyone and the U is all about the MONEY IN BIG TIME SPORTS.

Robert Granville

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

Allow alcohol sales in the stadium and this problem goes away. Short of that, this loyalty program will help... but not like beer in the big house.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

If that's what you care about - just find a way to pay them to come or show up on time. Problem solved!

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

"Dave Brandon had never seen a water polo match until..... it became his job to be there." So this is one of those "do as I say, not as I did" parenting things that are so effective?


Thu, Jun 7, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

We are so lucky to have Dave Brandon as AD! He's an innovative and outstanding leader. I was hoping that he'd run for governor but we did get another innovative and outstanding leader.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

Note to Brandon: Supply kegs to the sections 23 to 35 and you'll get the students there early!! (Sad truth) Loyalty program? Sounds like a grocery store.

Robert Granville

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

Older alumni don't remember having this problem because they could drink in the stands.


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

Gee, I know... let's have another walk/run/crawl and close all kinds of streets (if any are still open). And how about midnight sporting events... or nude ones. Marketing is glorious! Let 'er rip!


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

Does he even realize he's not selling pizza anymore?

Martin Church

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

I hope this program is also expanded to include the children of U of M such as Dearborn and Flint. Both are University of Michigan Schools just different campuses.


Sun, Jun 10, 2012 : 3:58 a.m.

Nice try


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

Who cares????


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 4:38 p.m.

or you could play more night games! let the festivities begin mid day and have the crowd fired up by kickoff!

Robert Granville

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 8:20 p.m.

Dave Brandon doesn't want rival fans destroying property in Ann Arbor at night. Who can blame him? Spartan fans wreak enough havoc in EL.

Chris Gerben

Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

Or we could have students focus on other things. You know, like school and stuff...


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Getting people going to more events and at an earlier time = More Concession Sales


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

While this isn't the only reason, it's absolutely true this is being done so people show up to sporting events they wouldn't ever consider going to - namely women's sports. Shame on anyone who can't handle the truth


Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

Listen up boys...... The girls are feeling left out again..... And there is no Title IX remedy for boring sports.....what a shame.