Attendance issues are a problem throughout college football. Big-time programs have no problem selling out, but lesser Power 5 schools and many non-Power 5 programs don’t have that luxury.
Take Northern Illinois for example. A new report from Northern Star Media indicates that NIU had to buy back over a quarter of a million dollars in football tickets last year in order to comply with NCAA attendance standards.
According to the NCAA, FBS programs are “required to have a rolling average attendance of 15,000 people per game, paid or actual.” If they fail to meet that benchmark, they are notified by the NCAA and could lose their FBS status.
Per Northern Star Media, NIU had to buy back $273,619 worth of tickets.
The office purchased 56,345 tickets as part of an NCAA audit, according to a compilation of transaction details provided to the Northern Star in a Freedom of Information Act request.
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John Cheney, NIU Executive Associate Athletic Director, said it’s not uncommon for schools to have to buy back tickets to meet the requirement.
NIU reported its announced season attendance at 67,748 in 2017, according to an NCAA attendance report. However, numbers show the total number of scanned tickets and student swipes accepted at games totaled 44,084, according to attendance numbers provided to the Northern Star through a FOIA request.
Since NIU would have needed to sell 90,000 tickets to meet the 15,000 per game quota (they hosted six home contests in 2017), you can see here the 56,345 figure comes from.
This isn’t actually uncommon for smaller schools to buy back tickets. Additionally, while attendance may be fluctuating, NIU is in pretty good shape on the field, having made five bowl games in the last six seasons.
The Huskies are currently 4-3 on the season, 4-0 in MAC play.