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Harty: Barta says “sky is not falling” with slow ticket sales

[ 0 ] July 25, 2014 |

Lunch with Gary Barta on Friday included sandwiches, soft drinks, pasta salad, a brownie, a pep talk and finally an important message to fans: Tickets still remain for the Iowa football team’s seven home games.

That’s always a concern, but especially with the Aug. 30 season opener against Northern Iowa barely a month away.

“I’m going to say two things: One, the sky is not falling,” Barta said in reference to football ticket sales. “And two, we have tickets to sell for every game.”

Barta is concerned enough about football ticket sales that on Aug. 1 the general public will have the opportunity to purchase tickets that normally are reserved for 10,000 UI students.

“I just can’t sit here like I did last year hoping the students will fill them and then sitting with more empty seats,” Barta said.

Students still will have the chance to purchase tickets after Aug. 1, but UI officials are finally taking steps to deal with a disturbing trend, which saw student ticket sales dip to 7,300 last season.
Barta deserves praise for being pro-active and for realizing that the days of Iowa football being the only show in town are long gone and never to return. The gameday experience at Kinnick Stadium, much to the dismay of some fans, also has been toned down with more heightened security.

And it’s hard to argue against watching the Hawkeyes play from the comfort of your couch while planted in front of a large, flat-screen television.

Fans are being pulled in lots of directions these days. But how many of them show up on gamedays still comes down to the product on the field more than anything else.

It’s probably no coincidence that this current decline in ticket sales comes at a time when the Iowa football program is coming off a four-year stretch in which you could argue that it under-achieved in three of the seasons, the exception being last year’s 8-5 record.

The 4-8 debacle in 2012 certainly was the low point, but frustration started building in 2010 and 2011 when Iowa finished 8-5 and 7-6, respectively. The 2010 squad had no business losing five games based on how much talent was on the roster, including a defensive line that had three future NFL players.

“We clearly lost some momentum a couple years ago when we went 4-8, and then we started to lose some momentum in our student section and among our fan base,” Barta said. “And so we’re working as hard as we can. Like in sports, when you lose momentum, sometimes it’s hard to get it back. So I think that’s the phase that we’re in now.”

Iowa’s conservative, grind-it-out style under veteran coach Kirk Ferentz also has a tendency to be boring from a strictly entertainment perspective. During times of success, it becomes a symbol for toughness and for doing things the old-fashioned way.

But during tough times, it becomes a criticism, and maybe a reason why some fans might not want to deal with purchasing tickets at today’s prices.

Improvements have to be made, and UI officials have acknowledged that.

The surest and most effective way for Iowa to increase ticket sales, is to borrow a phrase from late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, “Just win, baby.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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