20 August 2009

Department of Very Minor Economic Indicators

Here's Blue Gray Sky on this year's Notre Dame football ticket lottery:
It should be obvious to anyone browsing this table, but I'll spell it out: win rates were way up this year, with only Southern Cal falling below a 90% win rate for home games. In the three years we've done the poll, these are the highest win rates we've ever seen, including following the lackluster 2007 season. (Earlier polls available here: 2006, 2007, 2008). Last year, only one home game hit the 90% mark (Syracuse), while even less star-studded games were a tough ticket (Stanford, just 14%). This year, six of the seven home games were up over 90%, with Nevada, Washington, Navy, and Connecticut being damned near guaranteed admission, just for asking. Two years ago, the Southern Cal win rate was a measly 4%; this year, it's up to 60%.

And with the win rates being so high, it's safe to say that demand in this year's lottery was way, way down. In fact, we had more than a few comments from people submitting blank entries, with explanations that no application was sent this year.

What's the reason? The economy? Lack of disposable cash on hand this year? Or diminished expectations for the Irish, and a crummy slate of home games to boot? Probably a little of each.
Here's the table mentioned (it might be clearer in the original post I linked to):

Those are some pretty astounding numbers. I'd be surprised if there were much higher at any time in the last ten or fifteen years.

Personally I don't think diminished expectations are the cause this year; expectations seem about median compared to the last several years. I think it's pretty clearly an economic thing for most people. Who wants to pay for the chance to win a chance to pay for tickets? Additionally, you pay for the tickets to all the games you request tickets for upfront, and then get refunds for any tickets you do not win the option to purchase in the lottery, so you need to be willing to tie up a lot of cash to enter. (Or you did in previous years, when you were less likely to win.) I would put the lackluster slate of home games as the secondary cause.

There was talk that ticket sales would suffer from all the alumni upset about the Obama commencement thing, but I just don't see that being a big motivation. ND fans (and for that matter, modern Americans) just aren't that committed to boycott-type actions. I had dozens of friends tell me back when we were in school that they weren't going to donate any money to ND after they were graduated (which you must do in order to enter the lottery) because of this or that transgression by the administration. To the best of my knowledge I am the only one of them who has actually not done so.

I have had a lot of young alumni friends all say that they're willing to take their chances, go to South Bend and try to find a ticket when they get there, either from friends who have extras or from scalpers. Pretty much all of my friends have been dutifully entering the lottery for the last few years since we were graduated, and everyone is learning the lesson that it isn't that hard to connect with someone else who is looking to offload extra tickets. I don't think this is a stable long-term strategy, but anecdotally more people seem to be trying it this year, at least among my cohort.

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