When it comes to Gophers sports ticket sales, the Big Three are down, but the Other Eight are up – way up, in some cases.
One of the many interesting threads in our front-page story this morning on declining ticket sales at the University of Minnesota and across college sports is this one: All the Gophers’ “nonrevenue” sports that sell tickets are making more money than they used to.
Football is the big revenue-generator for athletics at just about every major university, followed usually by men’s basketball – and for Minnesota, men’s hockey comes in third. Ticket revenue for those three Gophers sports has been dropping, an understandably alarming trend for U leaders. And this morning’s story explains how athletic director Mark Coyle and his team aren’t just sitting around hoping for more victories and more fans.
But the Gophers sports known as nonrevenue sports have seen nice increases in recent years. We compared ticket revenue numbers from 2014 (a recent high-water mark in ticket revenue for the Gophers) to 2017 (the most recent year available). Of the 11 sports that sell tickets, the three marquee sports have seen big drops but the eight nonrevenue sports have all seen increases – including all six of the women’s sports that sell tickets. Softball and volleyball have taken big jumps. On the men’s side, baseball and wrestling show nice increases.
There are plenty of reasons for this, as Rachel Blount’s story notes: winning certainly helps; interest-jacking news (hello, Coach Whalen) does, too; as does the up-close experiences these sports often offer.
Increases in these eight sports can’t and won’t offset big drops in football and men’s basketball and hockey. The gains here are strong in comparison to previous seasons for these teams, but they are gains of thousands of dollars while football, men’s hockey and men’s basketball have seen million-dollar declines. Department-wide ticket revenue dropped by 28 percent – $8 million -- in this timeframe.
What these gains do show, however, is that fan interest and support is still quite strong and growing on many corners of the Minnesota campus.
Here’s a sport-by-sport look at the 2014-2017 ticket revenue comparison: