Ohio State is getting sacked in student football ticket sales this season.
Whether due to financial reasons, a preferred game day experience or a move from paper to digital tickets, a Lantern analysis of Ohio State football season ticket sales data shows that more than 6,500 fewer season student ticket packages were sold for the 2019 season than in 2018.
The drop reflects a broader trend within the program, with a 4.3-percent decline in nonstudent season ticket packages for Ohio Stadium. Fewer fans are attending sporting events in general in the United States, with the NFL at its lowest attendance in 2018 since 2010, and the MLB at its lowest since 2003, according to attendance data from both leagues.
Diana Sabau, deputy director of Ohio State Athletics, attributes the decrease to the tickets’ change in medium and the lack of a certain game on the schedule.
“[Students] have asked us for probably a year to two years that, ‘How can we not wait in line to pick up our tickets when we get back to school?” Sabau said. “I think having a mobile ticket achieved that. I think that, for whatever reason, that combination and not having Michigan at home give us a little bit larger decline.”
After selling 28,392 total student ticket packages in 2018, sales have dropped to 21,716 for the 2019 campaign. That’s a decline of nearly 24 percent.
It’s the fewest the athletic department’s ticket office has sold in at least a decade, and the only time since 2011 fewer than 25,000 packages have been sold.
In 2011, sales likely dropped due to the team’s quality. Multiple key Ohio State players were suspended due to NCAA violations, an interim head coach took over after the resignation of former head coach Jim Tressel, and the team responded by going 6-7 with a Gator Bowl loss.
Even then, the ticket office sold 22,804 packages.
While the athletics department feels that the switch to mobile tickets may cause a temporary dip in sales, Nick Signore, a third-year in accounting, said he actually finds the new mobile method more convenient.
Signore purchased a package in 2018, but said he didn’t in 2019 because most of the games during 2018 were blowouts that weren’t worth the cost of a season package. He said buying single-game tickets is cost-effective, and easier now since the release of the Ohio State student ticket exchange app TicketBay in January.
Many of his friends didn’t purchase season tickets either.
“[My friends] said that they’d rather tailgate before the game than actually go to the game and I’m kind of with them,” Signore said. “I have more fun tailgating before the game, and I can just watch it on TV, than actually going to the football game.”
Students have the option of purchasing one of four season ticket packages prior to the season.
North and South Block “O” packages, which place the rowdiest students together directly behind the north or south end zones, cost $272 in 2019. A full season in the student reserve section, which places students just outside the Block “O” sections on either end, cost $252. Purchasing a season ticket package in the Student Reserve section exclusively for conference games costs $144.
The athletics department collects feedback from students in Block “O” on how to improve the stadium environment following every season, Sabau said. Block “O” members were given a special entrance to improve “ease of access.”
“[We’ve] tried to plus up that experience for that group,” Sabau said. “Now we need to look at it collectively.”
The Lantern made several attempts to contact Block “O,” but did not receive a response.
University renovations removed 2,164 seats from Ohio Stadium ahead of 2019. However, this did not affect the number of tickets available to students.
Student population on the Columbus campus has risen every year from 2009 to 2018, with the exception of a dip from 56,867 in 2011 to 56,387 in 2012. It hit 61,170 in 2018. Data from 2019 is not yet available.
There’s likely more students to buy tickets, and the same amount available, but despite that and the fact that Ohio State plays three nationally ranked Big Ten opponents at home, student ticket sales are at their lowest since at least the mid-2000s.
“Historically, football has always been a printed ticket, and if they still want a printed ticket, they can certainly have one,” Sabau said. “We were just trying to make a mobile ticketing concept easier for our students.”
Despite the decrease in season ticket sales, Ohio Stadium announced an attendance of 104,089 fans at its Week 2 game against Cincinnati Saturday.
Perhaps more students and fans alike are switching to single-game ticket options.