The Athletic Department Gets it Right with the New Football Student Seating Policy

Central Student Government and the athletic department have put together a new football student seating system beginning next season that should solve many of the problems regarding student attendance at home football games. The package addresses the incentives to not only attend the games but also to arrive early, while accommodating students’ most pressing desire: the ability to reserve groups with their friends without having to arrive at the same time.

“Our goal has always been for students to attend games and arrive early and this plan reinforces this goal. From the student perspective, feedback through CSG, as well as multiple surveys showed that sitting in reserved groups was the students No. 1 concern and this plan addresses that feedback,” said Hunter Lochmann, chief marketing offer of the Michigan athletics.

The plan features changes to 2014 seating in addition to further changes to future seasons thereafter. There will be no more general admission seating, as there was in 2013. Instead, all season ticket holders will have reserved seats, similar to the system that had been in place before 2013. However, the key change implemented as a result of this plan is that seating will be administered based on previous season attendance. In 2014, all students who attended five or more games in 2013 will be seated in the SuperFan group, located in the lowest rows closest to field level. The remaining students will be seated by year, with the seniors seated just above the SuperFan group, followed by the juniors just above the senior group and so on. Groups can be formed with a maximum of 100 participants and will be seated based on average class level of the group.

In 2015, the plan will kick into a higher gear. Seating will be determined based on a points system that will begin in 2014. Students will receive three points for every game attended in addition to three extra points each time they arrive 30 minutes before game time. There will be a 36-point maximum to account for inclement weather and break games. The students with the highest point total will be seated in the lowest rows the following season. Groups will be seated based on their average point total.

Overall, the policy appears to be exactly what students desire and the athletic department deserves a great deal of credit for their willingness to work with student government and for the creative plan produced. This plan allows the serious, committed fans to be rewarded for their dedication, as fans with perfect attendance that show up early will be seated closest to the action. The policy further allows those who choose to buy tickets for the social aspect of football Saturdays to have the opportunity to create a seating group with their friends instead of requiring them all to arrive at the same time. Group seating is generated in the fairest way possible, although it does incentivize those with low point totals to join groups with students who have high point totals. Despite this, the incentives are shaped for all to attend games as opposed to skipping games, since most people prefer not to be seated in the highest rows. It also forces freshmen to prove their dedication before they are rewarded with a superior seat location.

The problem facing the athletic department in regards to student seating is based on the fact that once students purchase a ticket, there is little that can be done to force students to attend on time or even attend at all. The fact of the matter is that many students care more about the drinking than the actual football being played, and that is something no athletic department policy can change. Nonetheless, this policy gives the strongest incentives for students to show up early since it gives them a tangible reward for attendance.

Over the past few years, the complaints about the athletic department have been rising. People have clamored and complained about increased ticket prices, the student seating policy, and a general feeling that the athletic department doesn’t care about Michigan students and only cares about profit. However, with this policy, the athletic department has done their part to show they care about the students and are willing to reward them for dedication. There are no excuses anymore. If you aren’t dedicated enough to Michigan football to attend games and arrive early, you don’t deserve a good seat. The onus is now on the students to prove to the athletic department that we care about Michigan football and not just about getting drunk on Saturday mornings. The athletic department did their part. Now, it is time for the students to do theirs.

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