By: Hunter Mundy
The Connecticut Huskies will be hosting the Michigan Wolverines football team on September 21, 2013. For UConn, this may be the biggest home game ever scheduled. The game will take place at the Huskies’ Rentaschler Field, which has a normal capacity of 40,000 fans. This will be the second game in the contracted series between the two teams. The first game, a 2010 Wolverine victory of 30-10, was held before of a crowd of 113,090 at Michigan Stadium.
Connecticut normally allots 3,000 tickets to visiting opponents, but the contract with Michigan requires UConn to reserve 5,000 tickets for the Wolverines. In order to keep the same amount of season ticket opportunities, UCONN plans to add 2,000 temporary seats to the stadium’s capacity. While the Huskies have had numerous games in past years where crowds reached the 40,000 capacity, the additional seats, along with this game’s high demand for tickets, are sure to set a new record for football attendance.
In 2009, UConn’s average attendance was 38,229, and in 2012 the average number of spectators at Connecticut’s six home games was 34,672. Over four years, the ticket demand for Huskies football tickets has decreased by approximately 3 percent. Not taking into account required donations during the 2009-2011 cycle, tickets ranged from $150 for reserved seats to $210 for mezzanine chairs for a six-game home schedule. For 2013, which has a seven-game home schedule featuring the Wolverines, season ticket prices range from $175 for reserved seats to $280 for mezzanine chairs. UCONN/Michigan game attendees (outside of those purchased through the Wolverines allotment) will be required to purchase season tickets through the Huskies Athletic Ticket Office.
Some may ask why Michigan would not renegotiate or buy their way out of this contract in order to allow for an extra home game and the additional revenue that would generate. Dave Brandon, Michigan athletic director, stated to CBS Sports that even though he could have broken the deal, he opted not to because, “it would screw up [UConn’s] schedule” and force Michigan to “run around trying to find another game.” While cancelling this game would have led to scheduling difficulties for both groups, allowing this game to take place is truly a win-win for both institutions.
Michigan’s allotted 5,000 seats for this game does not nearly meet the expected ticket demand of Wolverine fans. With UConn located in one of the most populated areas of the United States, Michigan alumni are plentiful. For instance, the University of Michigan Alumni Club of New York, based in New York City, has over 13,000 members. Additionally, there are at least eight UM alumni clubs within a three-hour drive of UConn’s Rentaschler Field. UM Alumni Club members typically have the opportunity to purchase tickets for most home and away Michigan football games. However, it is the norm for these benefits to exclude rivalry games with Notre Dame and Ohio State as well as other games with traditional high-ticket demand.
As an example of the excitement and limited supply of tickets in the marketplace, the UConn game has also been added to the excluded list of games available directly to UM alumni club members. Look for UM fans throughout the region to either increase their UM athletic club donations and/or purchase UConn season football tickets in an effort to see their beloved Wolverines live and in person.
The 2013 season will be Connecticut’s first year in the newly named and configured American Athletic Conference. Having a home opponent on the schedule such as Michigan could not come at a better time. With losing former Big East rivals West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Huskies schedule, the Wolverines visit to Rentaschler Field will give the university and its football program a spark and a chance to shine on the national stage.
Many college programs choose to schedule traditional powers in order invigorate their home schedules and grow their program’s budgets. For instance, UConn’s rival Rutgers hosts the SEC’s Arkansas Razorbacks on the same day the Wolverines visit the Huskies.
In 2010, Duke University hosted the Alabama Crimson Tide, which set a modern day attendance record at the Blue Devils’ Wallace Wade Stadium (35,237). The #1 Crimson Tide routed Duke 62-13 in front of what ESPN dubbed “a crimson coated stadium named for a former Alabama coach.” Duke also used temporary stadium seating to accommodate the extra Alabama fans for this big contract game.
Additionally, Michigan State, along with Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan are a part of an agreement known as “Celebrate the State.” This contract contains 12 games from 2011 to 2020 with Michigan State facing each team four times during the period. One game of each these four game series will be played on the home field of Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan. In 2012, Michigan State visited Central Michigan and won 41-7. This game set an attendance record for Kelly/Shorts Stadium of 35,127 spectators with plenty of green-clad Spartans fans in attendance. Johnny Adams, Michigan State’s cornerback, stated to ESPN, “It was a little different, a smaller environment; but at the end of the day it’s all football. It’s good for the fans and it’s good for Central to bring the fans out here and put on a great show.”