Within weeks of Stanford’s victory in the Orange Bowl and No. 4 national ranking in the final polls, the school’s ticket office reported a 206 percent increase in early sales of new season tickets for the 2011 football season.
Through June of last year, the ticket office sold approximately 458 new season tickets. In comparison, as of mid-February this year, the ticket office reported 1,400 new season tickets already sold.
Many factors could account for this increase, including a series of important announcements that took place within one week. On Jan. 6, Andrew Luck, the record-setting quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up, announced his decision to forego the NFL draft to return to Stanford for his senior season. Within two hours of Luck’s announcement, the ticket office accepted 79 new account deposits representing 213 new season tickets.
A day later, Jim Harbaugh, Stanford’s popular head coach, accepted the head-coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers. On Jan. 13, Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby revealed that Stanford alum and offensive coordinator, David Shaw, had been promoted, becoming the 34th head coach in Stanford football history. After these announcements, more than 300 new deposits (representing 810 season tickets) were made.
Luck believes Stanford players are confident that the team’s success will continue even without Harbaugh. “He was obviously a great coach, but I think we have a good team and another great coach (Coach Shaw) coming up next year,” Luck said.
Other factors could account for the bump in new season ticket sales, including Stanford’s aggressive marketing campaign. Taking advantage of the additional publicity that comes with an Orange Bowl appearance, Stanford’s marketing department promoted season ticket sales for the 2011 football season in print ads that congratulated the team on a successful season, its Orange Bowl appearance, and finally, for winning the Orange Bowl to punctuate a 12-1 season. More than 100 new deposits (representing 270 new season tickets) were made before the Orange Bowl game.
Another key reason for increased new season ticket sales may be Stanford’s strength of schedule in 2011. With a rotation that makes the schedule different in alternating years, the 2011 home schedule is fan friendly, featuring Cal, Notre Dame and Oregon, which dealt Stanford its only loss in 2010.
But there’s no question that one of the biggest reasons for increased season ticket sales is the success of the 2010 Stanford football team. After suffering a 1-11 record only five years ago, this year the Stanford football team finished with the most season victories in school history, including the win in the Orange Bowl.
Whether the increased new season ticket sales will translate to a filled Stanford stadium remains to be seen. Back in the 1930 and 1940’s, Stanford football routinely drew 60,000 fans. After Stanford’s stadium renovation in 2005, capacity is now only 50,000.
Despite its success, Stanford averaged only 40,000 fans per game this year, ranking ninth in the Pac-10 for average attendance, higher than only Washington State. According to the NCAA Accumulated Attendance Report, Stanford is ranked 62nd in average attendance out of the 119 Division I football teams.
With an average of 10,000 more fans last season than in 2008, and the 1,400 new season ticket holders, there are signs that things may be changing.
Last year, Stanford sold nearly 17,000 season tickets, and this year, assuming most of last year’s season-ticket holders renew, the numbers will be even higher. Based on the sales patterns from previous years, Rich Muschell, the Assistant Athletic Director and Director of Ticket Sales and Services, believes there will be a “slight uptick around spring game,” which takes place in April.
Existing season ticket holders have the opportunity to renew their seats beginning in March.
“The noise of the roaring stadium gives me goose bumps,” said Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov. “We feed off of it.”