Fantastic observations. I'm a big fan of Mike Leach. No one has accomplished more than Mike Leach with the limited resources he had at Texas Tech. He took 3 and 2 star recruits and plugged them into his system that produced results. Despite the gap in talent, money, facilities, and geographic location, he dominated Texas A&M during his tenure and surprised Texas and Oklahoma once in a while. Ole Miss would have done a lot of good with Mike Leach.
What do you get when you add together a 6-18 record over two seasons, a 1-15 SEC record over that span, a third coaching change since 2004, three straight losses to your biggest rival, a new coach with a very limited track record, a fundraising campaign that requires a donation on top of the cost of tickets, the continued growth of HD television and the number of games broadcast each week, and a poor global economy?
A drop in season ticket sales at Ole Miss, that’s what. According to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, UM ticket sales are down about 3,000 from this point last year. Of its 45,000 season tickets, the school has sold only about 32,000 so far (not counting student tix).
“We got some work to do. There’s not doubt about that. We just have to keep talking, keep pushing, keep selling…
Get people to believe we can get this thing turned around and invest now because of the vision for the program. That’s been our message. ‘Hey, we know we’ve had some bumps along the road the last couple of years, but get in now because we’re building this program the right way.’”
This is one of the ironies of college football. Fans vote with their wallets and in Ole Miss’ case last year, the fans voted to oust Houston Nutt. But rarely do season ticket sales jump after a coaching change is made — unless a school brings in a major name (more on that in a second). Most fans take a wait-and-see approach with the new guy’s regime before spending cash to return to the stadium. So schools often nuke a coach because of attendance issues, yet those attendance issues aren’t often fixed simply by nuking said coach.
As for a “major name,” one wonders if season ticket sales in Oxford would be going a bit better today had the Rebels tabbed Mike Leach as their new coach instead of Hugh Freeze. Leach is a wild card and there’s a reason he’s coached in Lubbock, Texas and Pullman, Washington… two towns about as far off the beaten path as a man can get. But Leach was available. And he had an immediate impact at the ticket window at Washington State. From a wins and losses standpoint and from a ticket sales standpoint, Freeze and the Rebels will forever be compared to Leach and the Cougars. Fair or not.
It’ll be fun to see who turns things around first. (And, yes, Rebel fans, the Pac-12 is an easier league than the SEC, but that won’t stop the comparisons that you know are coming.)