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Nevada football season-ticket base drops 16.4 percent, although paid tickets remain flat

Carson Strong
Carson Strong runs onto the field before a game last season. Nevada was limited to 250 fans for home games in 2020. Despite a large home-opening crowd to open the 2021 season, the season-ticket base shrunk yet again. (David Calvert/Nevada athletics)

While the Nevada football team drew almost 24,000 fans for its home opener, the Wolf Pack's season-ticket base continues to dwindle.

Nevada welcomed 23,965 fans for its Sept. 11 game against Idaho State, the most of the Jay Norvell era, but only 6,589 of those were season-ticket holders. That figure is down from the 7,877 season-ticket holders in 2019, the last time full capacity was allowed at Mackay Stadium (attendance was limited to 250 fans for home game during the pandemic-impacted 2020 campaign). The latest season-ticket numbers were provided by the Wolf Pack to Nevada Sports Net on Friday afternoon.

That is a decrease of 1,288 season-ticket holders from 2019, a dip of 16.4 percent. It marked the seventh straight season the program has seen its season-ticket base decrease. The latest decrease comes despite Nevada cutting ticket prices throughout the stadium while adding a new tailgating section to try and improve the game-day experience. No season-ticket areas saw a price increase with reductions for most of the stadium. Season tickets started at $89 per seat with payment plan options available.

The Wolf Pack said the decrease in ticket sales from 2019 to 2021 was due largely to some COVID-related causes, such as fewer comped tickets for staff. In terms of general public sales, the Wolf Pack was down only 94 paid season-ticket holders from 2019 to 2021.

The Wolf Pack sold a program-record 12,783 season tickets in 2013, the first year under Brian Polian, but has had a decline in season-ticket sales every year since then. The loss of 1,288 fans is the second largest over that period behind the 1,331 fans lost between the 2015 and 2016 seasons after Mackay Stadium underwent a massive renovation. The Wolf Pack has essentially lost half of its season-ticket base over the last eight seasons. Getting fans to games has been a national problem over the last decade as television broadcasts become more prevalent.

Nevada had 9,174 season-ticket holders in Norvell's first season (2017) and has seen a loss of 2,585 season-ticket holders since then, a decrease of 28.2 percent, despite an improved on-field product. Nevada has reached three straight bowl games under Norvell and finished the 2020 season at 7-2. It boasts multiple NFL prospects on this year's team, headlined by potential first-round draft pick Carson Strong at quarterback.

The home opener against Idaho State drew one of Nevada's most electric crowds in recent years, with students and single-game ticket improvements. More than 4,000 students attended the game (more than double the average), with that section being moved from the north end zone to the south end zone. And while the Wolf Pack is hopeful those big numbers continue, with the "Running of the Wolves" being held prior to the next home game, the season-ticket base is of utmost importance as a guaranteed revenue source for the athletic department, which had a $10 million deficit last season due to COVID-19 attendance restrictions.

Norvell said he was thrilled with the home-opening crowd and is hopeful that kind of enthusiasm remains for the rest of the season.

"I was working out in the morning and I just started smiling, thinking about the game as 'Mackay Magic,'" Norvell said. "When the student energy is in the stadium, you can tell the difference, and the team connected with it. From the time we came out onto the field and recognized the students to the very end of the game. When we were out there singing the school song after the game, the students were still there. And that last touchdown, I was watching the game film and when Nate Cox threw that last touchdown to Harry Ballard, I looked down on the right-hand corner and there's this guy going like this with his hands (waving arms) and it's (UNR) President (Brian) Sandoval. When you see that type of enthusiasm from our president and our student body, it's what college football's all about."

After a road game at Boise State on Oct. 2, Nevada returns to Reno for its second home game of the year against New Mexico State on Oct. 9. The Wolf Pack will host Air Force, UNLV, San Jose State and Hawaii in Mountain West action.

Wolf Pack season-ticket base

A look at the Nevada football team’s season-tickets base over the last 12 seasons.

2010: 11,452

2011: 12,315

2012: 11,864

2013: 12,783 (program record)

2014: 11,846

2015: 11,352

2016: 10,021

2017: 9,174

2018: 8,580

2019: 7,877

2020: Pandemic

2021: 6,589

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