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Overreaction Monday: Improving the Iowa Hawkeye Fan Experience

The Iowa Athletics Department wants outside help to improve ticket sales and improve “fan relations.” Free advice, anyone?

NCAA Football: NCAA Football: Purdue at Iowa David Scrivner-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the dead off the offseason, and this year more than in year’s past, it feels like there hasn’t been quite as much to talk about when it comes to Iowa Athletics. That’s not a bad thing necessarily — it has given me plenty of time to catch up on television programs (hello, Brockmire), nap during The Masters, and shovel my driveway after a mid-April snow. But it also means that any email that comes across my inbox from the Iowa Athletics Department catches my eye more than it normally would.

And so, a few days ago, the following came into my inbox, and was reported on by The Gazette’s Vanessa Miller:

On the heels of breaking a seven-year bowl win drought and a beyond disappointing men’s basketball season that featured a contract extension and ludicrous buyout dealt in secret, the Athletics Department is seeking outside contractors to tell them how to sell more tickets and improve fan relations?

From Miller’s article:

The university last week issued a call for proposals from firms interested in partnering to manage a “dedicated ticket sales, fan development, and customer service staff.” The firm also would employ new technologies to monitor, evaluate, and predict ticket and fan trends “to make intelligent sales decisions.”

One of the prime goals, according to the call for bids, is to increase ticket sales, “resulting in consistent capacity crowds energized to create a winning and entertaining environment.”

Am I the only one who finds the timing of this a bit ironic? Or at least somewhat tone deaf?

Is this an admittance on behalf of the Athletic Department that they’re just now committed to creating a winning, entertaining environment? Now, work with me here, I know that’s a bit of a reach. But you didn’t come here for rational thought, did you? Anytime JPinIC gives me a chance to write this column, I always take it, so that we can actually get some overreaction going on this site (some overreaction that’s not in the comment section, that is). But come on, Iowa Athletic Department.

Now, this isn’t all bad. According to the release, if a firm is chosen, they will be tasked with a two-year contract to, among other things, make purchasing tickets easier. That’s a good thing, and something that’s already in motion for football with mobile tickets for some fans. Back in my days as a basketball season ticket holder, we were given paper tickets before they were eventually loaded onto my student ID. It was a step in the right direction, and something I’m glad they’re pursuing further. But this clearly isn’t just about the ticket buying experience, and ease of purchase alone isn’t going to solve Iowa football’s sellout problem.

From the same Gazette article:

Although UI athletics — with a surplus of $1.8 million — made money last year for the first time since 2013-2014, according to the department’s most recent 2016-17 report to the NCAA, revenue from many of its key programs — like football and basketball — is declining, according to a Board of Regents report in August.

The 2018 budget showed UI football income at $23.5 million, down from $24.1 million in 2017 and below 2018 football program expenses of $26.4 million. Men’s basketball revenue in 2018 is budgeted at $3.64 million, down from $3.67 in 2017 and well below its 2018 expenses of $7 million ...

When looking at ticket sales, specifically, Iowa’s attendance fell in 2017 from an average 69,565 fans per game in 2016 to 66,337. The last time UI averaged a sellout for its football season — averaging 70,585 — was in 2011.

We know that the Iowa Edge project will alleviate some of the sellout issues by reducing the overall number of available seats in the stadium. That’s a common practice lately across all sports. And this year’s Pinstripe Bowl victory and general overall good feeling about the football program will probably help bump sales in the immediate future.

I haven’t attended a game at Kinnick in years, so I don’t know off the top of my head what a game costs, but I have gone to basketball games, and I know for a fact that many fans, particularly students, think they’re being overcharged for tickets. We don’t know yet if this season was the beginning of a trend or an aberration, but what student would pay over $20 to watch one of the worst teams in the Big Ten in a shitty seat tucked behind one of the baskets?

And that’s not even mentioning the renovations to Kinnick. To me, an everyday season ticket holder will never get to experience the suites in the North End Zone. For most of the 60,000+ people in attendance, it will just be something nice to look at while they sit on small cushioned seats or a row of bleachers while Start Me Up plays over the loudspeaker during kickoff once again.

It’s also frustrating for me to see that the Athletic Department wants to hire an outside organization to most likely tell them all the things fans have said forever. Case in point: the Carver video screen. Everybody wanted one, and now, everyone loves it, and it has greatly improved the Carver experience. Iowa fans are smart! So, here are some free suggestions for the Iowa Athletics Department to improve fan relations and “winning culture:”

Kinnick Stadium:

  • Play better music
  • Replace the bleachers with actual seats (Is this something people actually want? Or is it just me?)
  • Cut ticket prices
  • Actually improve cell reception, or create a wi-fi network
  • Strong non-conference schedule
  • Sell beer
  • PANCHEROS BURRITO FOOD STATION (yes, getting through the line would probably last an entire quarter, but you know watching those 4th-and-2 punts would be so much better with a steak burrito in your hand)


  • Strong non-conference schedule
  • Cut ticket prices — for basketball, and in particular for student tickets, I think the cheaper the better. I understand the higher prices because there are fewer football games. To me, caring about creating a winning culture in Carver means caring about getting students in the door, and for most, I’d wager that the prices are too high
  • Move the student section (how long has everyone suggested this?)
  • Let students actually do chants

What do you think? Those of you who go to games, what do you want to see to improve your fan experience?

Don’t look now, but Rick Heller has this Iowa baseball team on a bit of a roll. After entering conference play without any wins over teams with winning records, the Hawks have taken care of business every weekend, and have a 5-3 conference record after this weekend’s series against Ohio State. We’ll recap that series more in detail later, but we’re deep into conference play now, and Heller has Iowa playing its best baseball of the year. It’s the third straight weekend with at least one win against a team with a winning record, and the second weekend in a row taking a series with two wins.

Like last year, this team has an explosive offense and that starts with Tyler Cropley. He leads the team in RBI with 25 and is second in hits with 39, while also knocking three balls out of the park so far. This team proved last weekend that it can get hot when it needs to, and it’s coming in handy in conference play.

But the team is performing well on defense, too. The Hawks own Lorenzo Elion even had a Sportscenter Top 10 play on Saturday against the Buckeyes:

I really like where this team is headed, and while winning the conference doesn’t appear to be in the cards (yet, at least), Heller has his team humming, and a Big Ten Tournament championship repeat is certainly not out of the question.

Let’s give it up for Heller, he’s really turning this season around before our eyes. Have a good Monday, everyone.