The lure of staying home and just watching games on TV for free in a challenging economy is pretty strong for a lot of people. Parking is difficult at the U, the winter weather gets tough and the non-conference games are often lousy. Students don't have extra cash for the tickets- they are already borrowing to the hilt to go to school.Bingo! I've been preaching this for years. The acquisition costs to bring in a new season ticket holder, or bring back a former one, are so much more than keeping an existing one. And as has been discussed ad nauseam, the Gophers are the worst local sports team in town at marketing, season ticket holder treatment, etc. I buy a few single game tickets to Wolves and Twins game each year and the treatment and outreach I get from them blows away the Gophers and we've had tickets in our family since 1971. And the long-term Twins and Wolves season ticket holders that I know get treated like royalty.
My biggest worry, is what I've seen in this thread from Jamiche's post. It's the long-time season ticket holder, die-hard fan who reaches his/her tipping point. They say they aren't going to get season tickets next year, but will "buy a handful of single game tickets" - which they often do year one. But they realize watching games at home isn't as bad as they thought, they then fall to 2-3 single game ticket attendees the next year, and before you know it, a long time season ticket holder turns into a casual fan who attends a game or two a year if the schedule allows.
I've seen this happen to a good 8-10 people for Gopher football and basketball who I would describe as a "die-hard" Gopher fan (attends a road game, posts on GH, hates a rival, etc.) and after 2-3 years, they are only attending 1-2 football games and maybe 2-3 basketball games a year. These are fans that a few years prior planned their entire calendar around Gopher games.
A subtle drop in season tickets year over year isn't dramatic, but an aggregate drop over the years should have the U in "crisis mode" in an attempt to turn it around.
One prize you get for attending is being part of the spirit of the game if the crowd is good. So when the crowds start declining as the team is losing the atmosphere gets stale. We need a team that has a nice run in the tournament to revitalize things. The students have to be attracted back first and then the rest of the fan base. Bump tuition 25 bucks (no one would notice) and give each student 2 "free tickets"- one to a non-conference game and one to a Big Ten game. I'd love to see 4000-5000 students at each game.