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September 24, 2014 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-09-24

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V~eneda, Sptmbr 4, 01 Te Satmet 5B

hen University
President Mark
Schlissel ran
into Michigan Stadium
minutes before the football
team's season opener, he
entered a world beyond the
sport. He entered a world
of tradition, history and
more than a few numbers.
With the usual crowd
of well over 100,000 fans
cheering in the largest sta-
dium in college football,
the atmosphere was.over-
whelming - and it should
be. After all, students paid
about $40 per game for
their seats - a fee that
ranked as the second high-
est in college football last
year, just .behind the Uni-
versity of Oregon. And for
the rest of the crowd, the
expense was larger, start-
ing at $70 for less notable
home games, like the con-
test with the University of
Working with numbers
is a familiar task for Schlis-
sel. Before becoming the
University's 14th president,
he served as Brown Uni-
versity's provost - a role
focused on the academic
and budgetary planning
for the University. His
previous experience with
athletics, however, does
not compare to the role
that athletics currently
plays at the University.
Though Brown Univer-
sity has 37 Division I var-
sity sports teams within
its department, it is in the
Ivy League - which is no
Big 10. Football tickets are
a mere $15 per game for
non-students, and fund-
ing for the program comes
as its own budget offered
from the Office of Student
Life at Brown which works
under a centralized fund-
ing model.
For Schlissel, the num-
bers at the University of
Michigan are just bigger.
Though his transition
comes with many hurdles,
taking hold of the Athletic
Department is a signifi-
cant one. To those outside
of academia and the alum-
ni pool, the University is
perhaps best known for
its Athletic Department.
Instead of building the
athletics brand to follow
its exponential upward
trend, Schlissel has said

he wants a balance between athletics and aca-
demics in University life - a value the Univer-
sity has held since its inception.
"What I want tobe sure of is that athletics
exist in an appropriate balance with every-
thing else the University does," Schlissel said
in a July press conference. "Athletics isn't part
of the mission statement of the University.
We're an academic institution, so I want to
work on the appropriate balance between ath-
letics and academics."
For Schlissel, however, the Athletic Depart-
ment influence is not slowing down anytime
soon - the numbers will only keep growing.
Big House bucks
It's easy to assess the University's athletic
reputation based on its successful programs.
The University's football team has the most
wins in college football - though a 2-2 win-
loss ratio for the first four games of the 2014
season weakens thatstatus in the modern con-
But even as the winning percentage falls,
the Athletic Department's revenue and
expenditures are on the rise. During Univer-
sity Athletic Director Dave Brandon's tenure,
the department's operating revenues have
increased from $105 million in 2011 to $151
million in 2015 - which excludes the approxi-
mate $350 million budgeted for infrastruc-
ture and renovations at the Stephen M. Ross
Athletic Campus. At Brown University, the
school's athletics programworked with abud-
get of $11 million in 2013.
In comparison with a 43.8 percent increase
over the past four years, the Athletic Depart-
ment's revenue is now more than half of what
the state of Michigan appropriated to the Uni-
versity last year - $295 million.
Former University President Mary Sue
Coleman recommended Brandon's hiring and
highlighted athletes as a way to celebrate the
University's achievements as a whole. When
Schlissel was appointed last January, Brandon
said he admired Coleman's work, and antici-
pated Schlissel to share the same spirit.
"President Coleman has been engaged and
helpful and been a pattern of Michigan Ath-
letics - loves and respects the role it plays on
campus," Brandon said. "And I'm sure the new
president will have the same point of view."
Athletics remain an integral part of the
University of Michigan experience. With the
recent 2013 Final Four appearance by the
Michigan men's basketball team and Nov. 2013
football win against Michigan State in the Big
House, the celebration of sport and camarade-
rie is a defining moment in a University alum's
remembrance of college.
"I think every individual here is an expert
in athletics, which is incredible," Schlissel
said in an interview with The Michigan Daily.
"It's something that people pay great attention
to; it's a part of the culture. I couldn't change
that even if I wanted to."
And Schlissel's not the only one to think
that athletics are a huge part of the campus
culture. University Lecturer John Bacon, a
prominent sports journalist and author, said
the Michigan athletics experience should be
an organic one which transcends the bound-

aries usually presented between students who
may be separatedby age, socioeconomic class,
race or ethnicity.
"It's the one time of the year when none of
that matters, where the second you walk past
the turnstile, all of it breaks down," Bacon
said. "If you know when to jam your fist into
the air and sing 'Hail,' then you're one of us.
And we're all connected and we all belong."
Sure, the atmosphere is invigorating. As
soon as that cowbell rings, thousands of stu-
dents clap and cheer with chants of "Go Blue"
without any external instruction. And, of
course, there's the student-led wave that cap-
tures every person sitting in the Big House.
But the recent dwindling attendance paints a
different picture of the game-day experience.
This year, with what Bacon called the
"worst home schedule in Michigan football
history," the Athletic Department sold 8,000
fewer student ticket packages for Michigan
football --a 40 percent decrease from last sea-
son. The prices for each home game remained
about $40 per game, but something caused
this large drop.
- AfterscrappingtheGeneralAdmissiontick-
eting policy last year, Brandon worked with
the Central Student Government to create a
better ticketing option for students. Together,
the Athletic Department and CSG created a

new loyalty-based ticketing program, which
bases ticket group placement by its previous
attendance record, thus prioritizing the most
loyal fans.
Though students have voiced positive
reviews of the new program after several
home games, the process of resolving the
issues between the Athletic Department and
the studentbody is still underway.
In a meeting with CSG in April, Brandon
expressed little concern for the prices of stu-
dent tickets. When asked how students who
can't afford the $40-per-game fee can still
attend games, he suggested the common prac-
tice of buying a season ticket holder's ticket off
of them for the game.
Despite consistent questioning at the meet-
ing, Brandon told CSG he was thankful for
their collaboration.
"We're not perfect, but our intentions are
good," Brandon said in April.
For the football game against Miami Uni-
versity Sept. 13, 102,824 fans attended the
game. Though it upheld the University's long-
standing streak of holding over 100,000 fans,
the crowd fell well below a typical football
game day. The next weekend's game versus
Utah drew 103,890.
Bacon said the biggest issue is not the short-
age of fans - since the decreased attendance

was expected due to what was expected to be
an underwhelming game - but of what the
implications of Athletic Department policies
will have in the future. As ticket prices rise
and home schedules become less desirable, the
outcome for the future may not be as promis-
"(The Athletic Department) needs to finally
realize that we can't charge steakhouse prices
for fast food schedules," Bacon said. "The big-
ger issue is not just this season or next season,
but what happens in 20 years when your stu-
dent tickets have basically cut in half - the
number of student holders. If you're not a
happy 20 year old with the department, you're
not going to be a happy 40 year old who's going
to want to buy a very expensive sky box. So,
that's what the real problem is: they're killing
the future with the present." {
From Brown to Blue
As Schlissel takes the reins of the Universi-
ty and its Athletic Department, his experience
with athletics comes from a much smaller
Before Schlissel became Brown's provost, a
project aimed to cut funding from their ath-
letics program began. Under former Brown
University President Ruth J. Simmons, who

visited the University Sept. S for Schlissel's
inauguration, Brown administrators created
an Athletics Review Committee to assess the
role athletics played on campus, along with
what areas of the program to cut due to dwin-
dling funding.
Athletics was the focus of one of 12 groups
formed to assess how to increase Brown's
revenues and cut its expenditures. With the
overall goal of saving $60 million after the
2008, the athletics committee contributed $1
million worth of savings toward that sum. Th
subcommittee cut this goal to $300,000 after
experiencing difficulty in decreasing the pro-
gram's expenditures by that much.
Instead, the athletics subcommittee creat-
ed a plan to over time provide a larger budget
to some athletic unitsby cutting several teams
and programs offered within the department.
Though creating plan came with many
hurdles, the subcommittee reiterated Brown's
goal for athletics on campus, the report read.
Margaret Klawunn, Brown's vice president
for campus life and student services, works
closely with Brown's athletic department. In
a statement, Klawunn said the Ivy Leagued'
overall goal is to find that balance between
academics and athletics.
"A lot of the IvytLeague regulation is intend-
See ATHLETICS, Page 88








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