While Penn State fans wait to see what bowl game will be the Nittany Lions’ last stop of the season, there is one all-important game where the university has placed high yet again: ticket sales.
On Tuesday, Penn State announced it is still in the top five of regular-season game ticket sales, with numbers that grew in 2014.
According to spokesman Jeff Nelson, the season ended with sales up by more than 5,000 people per game, a total of 35,000 more tickets than the year before.
“Our attendance success is directly attributable to the outstanding fan base that has long supported Penn State football,” said Tom McGrath, associate athletic director for business relations and communications, in a news release.
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“To be continually ranked in the top five nationally means a great deal to our student-athletes and coaches. The game day atmosphere in Happy Valley continues to be an attractive opportunity for our fans to socialize and cheer on the Nittany Lions. This only happens because our alumni, students and fans are so passionate and loyal.”
Nelson’s release credited the fans’ “excitement for new coach James Franklin and his squad” for increasing the numbers.
Asked if he thought the rollback of NCAA sanctions at the beginning of the season, which included making the team eligible for post-season play in 2014-15, made a difference, Nelson demurred.
“I’m sure there were a number of factors that went into the increased attendance, including coach Franklin’s first season, but you would really have to ask the fans about that,” he said in an email.
Numbers started growing before the first kickoff in Ireland against the University of Central Florida. Advanced ticket purchases topped the 2013 totals and the numbers grew from there, the university said.
The highest reported sales for the year came in at 107,895, not surprisingly for the Ohio State white-out game. Four of the seven home games topped 100,000, according to Penn State. Average attendance was 101,623, surpassing the 96,587 figure from 2013.
In fact, the average attendance from this year exceeded every game from 2013 except the homecoming game against Michigan, the only game to pass the 100,000 mark last season.
The athletics department said Penn State had the 11th-highest increase among schools that didn’t expand stadiums. Restrict that to the major conferences, such as the Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC, and that increase is the fifth-highest.
According to the NCAA, Beaver Stadium has been one of the five most well-attended venues in college football since 1991.
More than 6,000 new Penn State football season tickets, 1,200 partial season tickets and 80,000 single game and group sale tickets were sold for the 2014 season, Penn State said.
Penn State’s attendance figures reflect both ticket sales and admission credentials, such as provided to the media. Nelson said actual per-game attendance data drawn from tickets electronically scanned at stadium gates was “unavailable.”
“Our data and our fan feedback illustrate quite clearly that our attendance is influenced by several factors,” said Jeff Garner, assistant athletic director for ticketing and sales, in an email. One of those factors was a change in the ticket structure.
“The ticket offerings that were available for the 2014 season were largely dictated by our fans. Our fans asked for more variety in seating locations, prices and packaging which we focused on providing,” Garner said.
“Season ticket offerings including our recent graduate program, our partial season packages, variable single game ticket pricing and a new menu of group ticket initiatives were all good examples of those options and our dedication to providing the best fan experience we possibly can.”
There is still one more game on the horizon. With six wins, Penn State secured its 45th post-season appearance. Exactly which bowl will be hosting the Nittany Lions will be announced on Sunday, according to the athletics department.
Tickets for that bowl game, whatever it might be, will be offered first to Nittany Lion Club members. Any remaining tickets are then made available to the public starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday at GoPSUsports.com/bowlcentral or 1-800-NITTANY.
“Ultimately, our fans unwavering support of the Nittany Lions, our student athletes, is the key ingredient in any attendance success we may have,” Garner said.