Bloomberg News reported Thursday that business at Penn State was surprisingly up, despite the Sandusky scandal and the team's worst start since 2006.
Season tickets are at 68,000, the same as last year, and all the luxury suites at Beaver Stadium are sold out. Combine that with donations tied to ticket purchases projected to reach a record $17.5 million and it's a great positive story to tell.
“As one of the football players said, ‘The higher the heat, the stronger the steel,’” athletic director Dave Joyner told Bloomberg. “The good word is that the base has been very much energized.”
But all is not rosy from a business perspective.
Consider that last Saturday, Penn State drew only 93,680 fans, its lowest attendance for a game since 1995, when it drew an estimated 80,000 for a game against Michigan after a snowstorm. It's also the first time since 2000 that Penn State failed to draw more than 100,000 for any one of its first three games (Ohio, Navy and Temple).
Just look at a common opponent like Temple and you can see the slide. In 2008, the Temple game drew 105,106 fans. In 2009, there were 105,514 fans. In 2010, there were 104,840.
Penn State instituted a new donation program last season that raised more money but resulted in fewer seats being sold. The Nittany Lions' average crowd of 101,427 last season was already its worst year of attendance in more than a decade.
But the troubling sign for the Nittany Lions is that interest in the team's tickets on the secondary market, where a donation obviously doesn't have to be paid, is down significantly.
The number that stands out the most?
Searches for Penn State football tickets on the Ticketmaster-affiliated resale site Ticketsnow.com are down 62 percent so far this year. Yes, the team had a big home game against Alabama last season, but that alone doesn't account for what seems to be disinterest in seeing the team from non-season-ticket holders. Total sales through the first three games are down 45 percent on TicketsNow.com and the ticket search site TiqIQ said that the average listed price for a Penn State ticket this year though the fourth week of games is down 38 percent. Last season at this time, Penn State had the fourth-highest ticket price on the resale market ($221.15). Today, they come in at No. 21 ($137.05).
It's still too early to see exactly what type of effect the scandal will have on the program. What does seem rational is that the team, due to defections and future recruiting, will likely have a harder time returning to its winning ways. And that, no matter what school it is, makes it harder to maintain the robust business of the glory days.