MISSOULA — It’s “wait and see mode” for Grizzly football season-ticket holders, said University of Montana Athletic Director Kent Haslam on Wednesday.
On a phone call with the Missoulian, Haslam said about half of their season ticket holders have renewed seats due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He said the number of season tickets sold, as of now, is right around 9,000. Haslam also said around 1,500 tickets are in situations where their owners would like to defer to next season.
“Probably about half of our season tickets folks have told us they’re renewing or not renewing,” Haslam said. “It’s quite an obvious sign that they’re waiting to see how things look as we move through the month of July, which is totally understandable. We didn’t have a large number that came back and said they were canceling their season tickets. In fact, I think it was minimal, people that would just naturally cycle out of their seats. It was very minimal.”
The soft deadline for season ticket renewal was July 3, but season tickets can still be bought or renewed. Those that have renewed first will have higher priority for getting into football games this year than those who wait.
As recently as June 30, UM has said publicly it plans to go forward with all of its scheduled athletic events this season. In a post from that day, the Athletic Department said fans would have several options in regards to their tickets, no matter what UM's final plan is:
• Keep them for the season.
• Donate all or a portion of the season ticket cost to the Grizzly Scholarship Association.
• Defer the payment to the 2021 football season.
• Receive a refund.
Haslam did say they received a response from the request for support.
“People are certainly supportive, and they want to be supportive, but there’s still so many, still, here eight or so weeks from the season opener, and we still don’t know a lot still about how this virus is going to work. It’s certainly in control,” Haslam said.
The capacity for Washington-Grizzly Stadium will also likely not be 25,203, its normal capacity. UM has been working with the Missoula City-County Health Department closely, but the situation has changed daily.
That has made it difficult for the school to figure out just how many — and which people — will be able to get into UM football games.
Money-wise, this situation will also have an impact. The Grizzlies made $4.8 million in ticket sales for Fiscal Year 2019, by far the highest mark in the Big Sky Conference.
“I think we’ve gotten to that point now, in July, and we’re still having cases, in fact increasing cases, and I think this idea that having a completely full stadium is not going to happen,” Haslam said. “I see our season ticket holders holding back to see, OK, what’s that going to look like, is that going to be season ticket holders only? What’s the number going to be?”
With student tickets normally ranging from 1,000 to 3,000, that will be another aspect to consider. UM is currently planning to have in-person classes in the fall, meaning there will be students on campus.
How many of them will want to go to games? That is a question Haslam said they will likely not know until the week of the Grizzlies opener. UM students, those who pay the athletic fee, claim their tickets the week of the game.
“We’ve just worked around with the number of a couple thousand students, and then you account for that when you start to plan for the total capacity,” Haslam said. “We don’t know on students because it’s a week of the game scenario.”
The Big Sky Conference has proceeded as scheduled with its offseason activities and expects to have a football season. The Big Sky Conference announced last week it would have its annual football media day virtually from July 28-29.
On Wednesday, the Ivy League, which plays FCS-level football, ruled that it would hold off all sports until January, thereby canceling its football season.
In normal times, UM would have been done with its season-ticket sales in May and would have moved on to individual football tickets at this point. July is also when basketball season-ticket sales pick up, but those are in a waiting pattern as well — the Big Sky has yet to release the conference basketball schedule, and UM is still trying to get its non-conference slate finished.
“That timeline is obviously not holding because of what’s in front of us,” Haslam said.