Boise State is honoring the 10-year anniversary of its first Fiesta Bowl-winning team this year. And for the first time since, the Broncos opened their home schedule with fewer than 20,000 season tickets sold.
This year, 19,529 season tickets have been sold, which is the fewest since the 19,494 that were sold in 2006. It is a drop of nearly 9 percent after 21,373 were sold last season and 19 percent since a high of 24,109 were sold in 2012.
“I think that’s the trend across the country. It’s not good for us,” Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey said.
The largest reason for the dropoff has been the abundance of late kickoffs. Saturday’s home opener against Washington State did not kick until 8:26 p.m., and at least two more are set for 8:15 p.m. starts with potentially two others not currently with a set time that could get late starts, too.
Those late starts have been in large part to acquiesce to ESPN, which also means a bigger television bonus for Boise State. Apsey said it has been broached to the Mountain West before, but it has become too much of an issue.
“It’s not good. I’m going to be a little boisterous this time around,” Apsey said. “I don’t know what can be done, but I’m not just going to sit back and go ‘Oh well, you know, that’s what time the game is. Let’s all suck it up.’ I’m tired of that.”
For the time being, the late kickoffs will remain, and Apsey hopes fans can still make it to games.
“I don’t like it, either, but I can’t change that right now. I get how people are frustrated,” Apsey said. “But at what point do you go, ‘You know what, I’m just going to go out and support our team?’ I hope people decide to do that.
“I’m going to try my best ... I’m going to bring it up much more seriously. It’s not working.”
The attitude is a bit of a departure from a June statement, when he said “We have embraced this as a department, and we need to find way so that when the clock strikes midnight and we're still playing, we look around Albertsons Stadium and see our fans embracing this as well.”
Ticket prices, as usual, are also part of the equation. Though prices held steady in the main stadium the last three years, they increased this year by 6 percent in the North End Zone and 2.5 percent in the South End Zone. They increased for 10 straight years before 2014. Boise State offered two three-game mini-plans this season, at $155 apiece in the main stadium. Season tickets started at $165 in the North End Zone.
Single-game tickets for the Broncos’ home nonconference games are $49 to $90, with conference games $29 to $75. Though season sales are down, Saturday’s home opener against Washington State drew 36,163 fans, fourth-most in Albertsons Stadium history.
In his second fall as athletic director, Apsey said Boise State could perhaps push for earlier games, albeit ones that may not qualify for the television bonus, but the school still wants the balance between being a business and being fan-friendly. That’s a challenge, as the school got an advantageous bonus structure when it opted to remain in the Mountain West in 2013, but it also means playing when ESPN has open times, often in the late timeframe.
Boise State received $1.6 million in TV bonus money last year and $2.1 million in 2014. The Mountain West gives bonuses for appearing on ESPN, ESPN2 or a major network such as ABC or CBS in league-controlled games. Teams earn $500,000 for Saturday games or $300,000 for weekday games. Thus far, the Broncos are due for at least $1.4 million this year, with two games’ broadcasts still undetermined.
The Mountain West is considering altering the bonus structure to help the conference’s other schools, while keeping Boise State’s the same, Apsey said. If there are more games on non-ESPN channels, the hope would be more ticket sales to offset the lost bonus. Another possibility is giving Boise State a flat payout, then splitting all bonus money evenly, which he said is one option, though nothing is set in stone.
Apsey also spoke about the Big 12’s decision not to continue considering Boise State as a candidate in expansion. He said that Boise State did not make a presentation in person and felt communication was reasonable.
“If you have someone on your doorstep every single day, some people think that’s good. Others think ‘You don’t have to come to my doorstep every day,’ ” Apsey said. “Not knowing what the exact criteria was, I thought we did a really good job.”
Apsey added that “I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t do anything, I really wouldn’t,” as the conference considers adding two or four teams to the 10-team league. He felt the conference also gave a fair shot to the school.
“We did what we thought was appropriate at the time,” Apsey said. “... I’m not sure our shake was any different than anyone else’s.”
BSU season ticket sales
▪ 2016: 19,529
▪ 2015: 21,373
▪ 2014: 21,139
▪ 2013: 22,416
▪ 2012: 24,109
▪ 2011: 24,020
▪ 2010: 22,994
▪ 2009: 21,767
▪ 2008: 22,380
▪ 2007: 20,904
▪ 2006: 19,494