With the beginning of the Virginia Tech football season less than a month away, the book on this offseason is coming to a close.
One of the more intriguing stories that has taken a backseat to the coaching changes, dismissals and recruiting, however, is that of the student season ticket situation.
According to the Tech athletic department, season ticket purchases among upperclassmen dropped roughly 20 percent for this upcoming season from last year. This sharp decline is the steepest that Tech has seen in recent memory, and has even forced Tech’s ticketing services to explore new opportunities in an attempt to make sure that Lane Stadium can continue filling at capacity.
Previously, there had been a student lottery in place that required freshmen to put their names in for a raffle to win tickets. Sandy Smith Jr., assistant director of athletics for ticketing services, posited that the lack of ticket sales has been the main driving force for a new regimen. Season ticket purchases are now available for freshmen during orientation this year.
Smith also noted that this isn’t the first time that freshmen have been allowed to purchase season tickets. Tech briefly experimented with allowing freshmen to buy season tickets seven years ago. However, demand was too high from upperclassmen to continue allowing freshman to purchase tickets.
“We (have been) looking at being able to offer (ticket sales) to freshmen since we have improved on the online ordering process over the past couple of years,” Smith said. “We always evaluate anything we implement and try to make the ticketing process as easy for the students as possible.”
Smith was unable to comment on the reason for the decrease in season ticket sales.
Tech has historically prided itself on solid attendance and a rabid student section, so the sudden decline this year came as a surprise to many. According to a poll conducted on the Class of 2014’s Facebook page, the most overwhelming answer to that would be the lack of a Thursday night game this year.
“Thursday night games are a staple of modern Virginia Tech football,” said Johnathan Cace, a senior in engineering science and mechanics. “The ACC doesn’t get many night games and those games bring national exposure, a fact which is not lost on the players and fans but apparently is lost on (athletic director) Jim Weaver.”
This is the first season since 2001 (while VT was still in the Big East) that Lane Stadium won't host a Thursday night game. Weaver has mentioned in prior interviews that he had requested a Thursday night game off this season to ease the burden on some fans who previously weren’t able to attend, such as those with children in school.
Another perceived reason for the declined student season ticket sales is the supposedly weak home schedule Tech has lined up for this season. According to college football guru Phil Steele, the team's strength of schedule ranking for the upcoming season stands at 59th out of 126 teams. Tech’s lackluster home schedule and possible lack of a night game this year is leaving some students less than impressed.
“Good games are only as good as the opponents we play,” said Zack Flory, a senior communication major. “It just doesn’t make sense to spend top dollar to see us play creampuffs.”
The decline in interest for season tickets hasn’t been limited to the student base, however. The Hokie Club, Tech's athletic fundraising and exterior season ticket distribution department, saw its lowest number of members since 1999.
The numbers for February of 2013 included 10,369 members compared to an average of 11,534 members from 2000-2011. There were 9,532 members in 1999. Although unable to offer exact up-to-date numbers, a spokesperson for the Hokie Club noted that membership numbers had crept up to 10,411 by the end of March 2013.
She was unable to comment on the reason for the unprecedented drop in membership.