IOWA CITY, Ia. – Fan angst over the state of the University of Iowa's football program is undeniable following a disappointing 7-6 record in 2014.
"I fully understand why there's unrest," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said. "None of us are happy with the way things turned out."
Now, the athletic department takes on the challenge of keeping season ticket-holders coming back to Kinnick Stadium. And they do so with data from a survey of Football Bowl Subdivision schools that showed just 64 percent of Iowa's 2014 season ticket-holders who responded were likely to renew.
"In our world, there's nothing more important than the season ticket-holder," said Rick Klatt, Iowa's associate athletics director for external relations. "We're committed to doing all we possibly can to keep them engaged. We need their help to kick-start the momentum."
Order forms for 2015 season tickets will start arriving in the mail Monday. With the form is a letter from Barta that addresses the fact that last season didn't meet expectations in terms of competitive success.
"We've temporarily lost some momentum and are working tirelessly to get it back," Barta says in the letter.
The cost of season tickets will remain the same as last season — $395 for the general public, $325 for faculty and staff — with some enhancements added. If fans order season tickets by March 13, they'll receive $70 to spend at Kinnick's concession stands during games and a 30 percent discount off all items purchased during one visit to Herky's Locker Room before the season starts.
It is, Barta says, a "modest yet significant way for us to say 'thank you' to the most important fans of our football program: our season ticket customers."
Information on student ticket sales will be released later this month. But Barta said students will be offered "a significant discount" if they order tickets before heading home for the summer.
Iowa has participated in the FBS survey, which went out in late October, for the past two seasons. Piles of analytical data are provided to each school to help them understand the wants and needs of those season ticket-holders.
The national average of fans who intended to renew season tickets was 72 percent, compared with Iowa's 64 percent. Of those Iowa fans who said they were undecided or unlikely to renew, 68 percent felt the price exceeded the value and benefits they received for being a season ticket-holder. The national average among the unlikelies was 47 percent.
Other factors listed by those undecided or unlikely to renew were being able to buy tickets from a secondary market (39 percent), dissatisfaction over the with seat location process (38 percent), the team is not committed to winning (32 percent) and not feeling the team values the buyer as a ticket package consumer (31 percent).
Season ticket sales for the general public, faculty/staff and students have dropped in each of the past three seasons. General public numbers have dipped from 40,506 in 2011 to 37,823 last season. Faculty/staff has dropped over that same time period from 4,438 to 4,005. And student sales have fallen from 10,513 to 6,440.
Every game was sold out at Kinnick Stadium as recently as the 2011 season. Average attendance in 2014 ranked 22nd nationally at 67,512, a slight increase from 67,125 the year before. But only one game has been sold out over the past two seasons. Iowa has won just 10 of 21 home games over the past three seasons.
Klatt said the enhancements offered as part of the season ticket package will give the impression to some fans that "they're trying to bribe us, look how desperate they are. But there's more thought to it than that."
Barta remains steadfast in his belief that Kirk Ferentz, entering his 17th season as Iowa's football coach, is the right man for the job going forward. Barta says that with the knowledge that season tickets are a tough sell right now.
"We're not going to take anything for granted," Barta said. "We want fans to say, 'Look, last year is what it was. Now let's go have fun and get back the momentum we lost.' "
A STUB ON STUBS
After maintaining steady overall ticket sales for much of the past decade, Iowa's season ticket and student hauls have declined sharply since 2011. A look at season-ticket figures since 2005: