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A brief history of Michigan football ticket prices

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Bo Woody

Here’s the price of a regular admission (not student) University of Michigan football ticket over time.

(All figures are in 2012 dollars, rounded to the nearest dollar. I couldn’t find 1970 and 1980 so I substituted the nearest available year).

1900: $27

1910: $48

1920: $29

1930: $41

1940: $45

1950: $34

1960: $35

1969: $38

1981: $30

1990: $35

2000: $47

Notes:

(1) Ticket prices remained remarkably stable between 1950 and 1990, even though attendance skyrocketed during the second half of this period. In the 1950s and 1960s average attendance for home games tended to be in the 50,000 to 70,000 range for most games, usually with one annual 100,000 full house against either Michigan State or Ohio State. By the mid-1970s every game was drawing 100,000+.

(2) Starting about 20 years ago, the athletic department decided to “monetize” this demand, as they say in the business schools. Current ticket prices are hard to list straightforwardly, because like so many other things they’ve been stratified into different tranches, as they say at Goldman Sachs. Anyway, the “base” price of tickets is now $65, but the real average ticket price is about double that, because as of 2005 Michigan finally jumped into the private seat license game. The way this works is that if you want a season ticket (almost all tickets are sold as season tickets) you have to first buy the right to buy the ticket, by buying a PSL. These range from $75 for end zone seats to $600 for prime seats. Here’s how it works for a seat on the 15-yard line — that is, more or less an “average” ticket:

Season ticket: $455 ($65 per game for seven games)

PSL: $450

Actual price per ticket: $129

(Because of our amazing tax code, 80% of the PSL is deductible as a charitable contribution to the university, so depending on your tax bracket the “real” price might be more like $110).

For a 50-yard line seat the price is more in the neighborhood of $160 per ticket per game, i.e., a more than quadrupling of the price from what it was 20 years ago in real terms.

All this ignores the world of the one percenters, who since 2010 have been able to purchase luxury suites (demurely referred to as “enclosed seating” by UM’s administrators) at a current annual lease price of $60,000 to $90,000. Each suite holds up to 16 people; however, if you lease one you still have to buy game tickets for anyone who you wish to help ascend to these celestial realms. For the lesser nobility, “club” seating is available at $1,500 to $4,000 per season ticket (club seats are outside, but are protected from some of nature’s fury by being directly beneath the luxury suites, which seems metaphorically appropriate.)

(3) Salary of Michigan’s head football coach, in 2012 dollars:

1969: $131,000

1981: $168,000

2012: $3.25 million

Update: See also

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