What's a Couple Million In Lost Ticket Revenue Between Friends?

Morgan Burke, rocking the "short sleeves with tie" look. Nice.


Mike Carmin over at the J&C has a very interesting article up regarding the freefalling ticket revenue for Purdue football. It's essentially an interview with Burke about the issue and I encourage you to go read it, but I'll also pull out a few choice cuts for you here.

During the 2008 football season, Purdue's football program generated $12.5 million in ticket revenue.The next season, the figure dipped to $11.5 million. In 2010, ticket revenue fell to $10.2 million.


That's $2.3 million in lost ticket revenue in just two years and it's expected that it will have fallen again when 2011 is officially accounted for. So let's say, conservatively, that it's another $700,000 down for 2011 just to play with nice round numbers. That puts Purdue in a $3 million hole (or loss, whatever you want to call it) in three years. Which, and I'm no math major, works out to {checks math} yes, a million dollars per year. Yowsa.

There are roughly 14,000 fewer season ticket holders compared to 2007, when the count was 42,880. Purdue sold 28,914 season tickets for the 2011 season.


So in a four year span, season tickets have declined in numbers by about 33%. Obviously, we all know this is alarming, but let me ask you this: What if we see another 33% decline over the next four years? That's a little over 9,000 more seats not filled (and, really, is it hard to imagine another 9,000 empties given the way people are flocking away in droves?), bringing season ticket totals down to the sub-20,000 range.

I don't know about you, but that sounds almost impossible, doesn't it? And yet, so possible, given the current trajectory.

Burke veers into comments about the coaching situation as well, and it's hard to know if he was asked specifically about it or if he is just very aware of the noise outside his office:

Burke said the responsibility for attendance and ticket revenue is "on me" but added "if everybody thinks you make one personnel change ... how many different coaches have been at Notre Dame and Indiana since I've been here? It's staggering. 


I'm not sure anyone has suggested Purdue needs to make "one" personnel change. I think some want the whole coaching staff gone. I think others have said, hey, maybe Danny Hope can work out, but not with this staff. I will tell you this, however: how many coaches ND and IU have had in the past 20 years is probably the least relevant part of this equation.

"The head coach is like the quarterback -- they may get too much credit when things are going good but too much blame when things go bad. But they're the captain of the ship and ultimately I'm the captain of the ship too and I have to take responsibility."

I could not love this quote more, because it sounds like something Hopeful Danny on Twitter would say. Mixing up metaphors and figures of speech is one of my personal favorite things to take note of. So we have two captains here? Who outranks who? Wouldn't Burke be the....admiral? I'm so confused.

Asked if the steady downturn in football ticket revenue is hurting the overall athletic department, Burke said: "It's not yet but you can't go on very much longer. 


Wow, that doesn't sound good...right? Wait. I'm so confused. 

"The way we budget, we try to build reserves. Our business is much more cyclical than people think. That's one of the reasons you live within your means."


Ah, yes, live within your means. Like underpaying your basketball coach no matter how good he is, to the point where he nearly leaves. That sort of living within your means? Gotcha.

This next nugget is telling in some ways:

While football ticket revenue is down, the athletic department -- which receives no funding from the university and is expected to show a net income of $9.85 million following the 2011-12 academic year -- probably will remain in sound financial shape because of other revenue sources. 


Net income, by its definition, is basically profit. It's interesting that the term "profit" is not used here. That could be Carmin's choice of words or it could come from the University in one way or another. But the point is, the athletic department is going to be positive by almost $10 million after this school year is over. So when you find yourself wondering why Burke isn't taking a flame-thrower to the coaching offices, that's a big, big part of it.

Burke also expresses surprise in the story that more fans didn't come to the Purdue-Iowa game. (Hey, we were there! We did our part, Morgan!) And for those who think Burke may be a little out of touch, he commented that he expected to see 50,000-52,000 in the house for that game, which wound up having just over 40,000 in attendance.

I think an athletic department, in order to be realistic and make the logical decisions so many fans want, needs to first have someone at the helm who is fully in touch with reality. I'm not going so far as to say Burke is not in touch with reality, but I can only hear so many comments like this until I begin to think he's just a guy riding out his time to retirement.

And finally, Purdue has sold 3,900 tickets for the Little Caesars Bowl. Western Michigan has sold 4,500. The interest, quite simply, is not there. I don't know if it's Coach Hope or the players or Morgan Burke or the fans. Maybe it's some combination -- in life, it usually is. But I know things aren't in good shape and this article doesn't make me feel much better.

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