The Washington Times - August 27, 2012, 12:51PM

Just posted a little bit ago was a story on Maryland’s football season ticket sales, which have decreased 18 percent after last year’s 2-10 season.

This really can’t be interpreted as a surprise. The Terrapins have a history of a fair-weather fanbase and the numbers over the last dozen years bear this out:


MARYLAND FOOTBALL SEASON TICKETS (ticket data courtesy of Maryland)

Year Season Tix   
Avg. Attendance    W-L Season Tix % Change  
2000 13,249 34,129 5-6 —-
2001 13,624 43,565 10-2 +1.03%
2002 20,473 46,251 11-3 +50.27%
2003 22,932 51,236 10-3    
2004 27,214 51,410 5-6 +18.67%
2005 28,661 52,426 5-6 +5.32%
2006 27,098 49,493 9-4 -5.45%
2007 26,948 51,263 6-7 -0.55%
2008 24,929 47,954 8-5 -7.49%
2009 23,510 44,452 2-10 -5.69%
2010 19,766 39,168 9-4 -15.93%
2011 19,892 42,355 2-10 +0.64%
16,241 —- —- -18.35%


The 2012 data is through Friday, so Maryland could still add some season ticket holders. It’s safe to assume it won’t be 3,600 more fans,

The decline is similar in size and a bit larger in percentage to the hit Maryland took coming off its 2-10 season in 2009. The statistics show a very clear story: When the Terps won big, fans flocked in larger numbers to Byrd Stadium. When they lost big, the fanbase shrunk considerably.

This fits with the realities of college football in the D.C. market, where the sport simply doesn’t move the needle as it does in most of the country. A winning product can offset that to some degree, but figuring out how to grow the fan base in a permanent way that can withstand tough times is one of Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson‘s toughest tasks.

During much of an interview in his office last week, he emphasized the quality of the people the program has brought in and the things the program is doing to make Maryland football a more friendly environment for families.

Also a priority: Getting people to feel a connection to the school that exists for other large state universities. And that’s where he offered particularly strong praise for the recruiting results under Randy Edsall.

“Everybody’s a Terp,” Anderson said. “If you live in the state of Maryland, if you just moved here, you’re a Terp. It’s just like some of these other programs. That’s what I’m ultimately trying to do. If you watch a game on TV, you didn’t have to go here. You’re a Terp.

“That’s why it’s so important to keep the talent here at home because I want people to come here and say ‘I used to watch so-and-so play and he’s at home where everyone can come and enjoy this.’ I truly believe we’re well on our road to do it. The unfortunate thing is, the injuries going into this season, like I said, I’m counting on some people to live up to what we recruited them for and they’re going to have to play and make some plays.”

Maryland has worked with the Aspire Group, an organization paid on a percentage basis of its sales, since May 2011 to improve its ticket sales. Representatives of the company have attempted to contact all of the season ticket holders that have not renewed.

Anderson said Maryland has about 1,400 new season ticket holders. Do the math —- there’s that 3,600-ticket drop from last year —- and it means roughly 5,000 of a base of almost 20,000 departed after last season.

“I think we could have looked at less renewals than we have now if we had not had them working with us and making those outreach calls and letting people know we are concerned about how we feel,” Anderson said of Aspire. “Nobody wants to hear anything negative, but we reached out. We want to hear what our ticket holders and our customers and our donors are feeling and we’re trying to address those issues now. Everything is not happening overnight, but it does give us a better snapshot of what we face and how we can move forward to make this an environment where people would want to come, not just to see a football game but feel part of being an event.”

It’s a noble goal, and anything Maryland does to make fans feel welcome at Byrd has to be considered a good development for the department. It will be a struggle, though, to bend the local market away from its usual pattern unless the Terps can improve their on-the-field product.

—- Patrick Stevens