Michigan is betting on its rabid fanbase to pay a premium for rivalry games in the Big 10. (John Biever/SI)
By Chris Johnson
Any given team’s schedule has exciting games and boring ones. In college football, the unofficial dividing line, at least during the BCS era, is the early-fall crossover from the nonconference season into league play. With sporadic evidence to the contrary, teams feast on lower-tier FBS and FCS opponents during the early weeks of the season.
Conference games are more entertaining, for the most part, and more likely to attract a stronger fan turnout. The hive minds of college ticketing offices aren’t oblivious to this. They understand most fans, on balance, spend their money in rational and predictable ways. Athletic department officials are taking note, and Michigan is at the forefront. The Wolverines announced in an official release Thursday their move to a “dynamic pricing model.” You may have heard this terminology before, and if you haven’t, it’s quite simple, really. From mgoblue.com:
"Dynamic pricing is a practice that has been widely used throughout the travel industry and is quickly becoming the standard across sports and entertainment organizations," said Lochmann. "Pricing dynamically will allow us to adjust single-game ticket prices upward or downward based on real-time market conditions with the biggest factor being fan demand and ticket scarcity. We've seen strong demand for tickets and encourage fans to buy early to access the best deals."
The philosophy behind this change is easy to understand. College football fans – from the Wolverines' diehards to Memphis’s comparatively apathetic fan base and everything in between – are more eager to pay larger sums for more exciting games. Michigan is simply reacting to those obvious preferences with a sensible, more lucrative pricing model. Of course you’re willing to shell out a few more dollars to watch Michigan play, say, Ohio State than to witness the 30-point bludgeoning all but guaranteed to meet Akron at the Big House this September. Michigan’s athletic department is betting on it.
The change won’t affect Michigan season-ticket holders, for whom game prices will remain fixed at the listed price. But if you’re eyeing the Wolverines’ schedule for games you might be interested in attending, better to act now than later. Chances are the listed ticket price will climb as we move closer to game day. To give you an idea of how Michigan plans to leverage individual game's viewing attractiveness to raise prices, consider the following expected initial dynamic prices for end zone tickets: Central Michigan ($70), Nebraska ($110), Ohio State ($175).
Is the chance to watch one of college football's best rivalries at its competitive peak in a maize-and-blue-deluged Big House worth over $100 more than the Central Michigan game? Michigan is allowing the market to decide.