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More on Virginia football's declining ticket sales

Everyone associated with Virginia football in recent years likely would agree that the program has not performed at an ideal level. The Cavaliers went 5-7 in 2008, and some fans grumbled. They went 3-9 in 2009, and the grumbling grew louder. They fired Al Groh and replaced him with Mike London, and -- as is usually the case when a fresh face is applied to a sour situation -- mind-sets began to change.

Virginia fans had reason to hope and to be excited about their football team again, and the rebuilding efforts on the faith they put in their team were bolstered by the tireless work London put into reaching out to as many corners of the region as he could.

But sometimes, the memories losing creates become too ingrained, too torturous, to be washed away by the bump in optimism a new coach typically generates. Virginia's season ticket sales are below the athletic department's stated goal for the 2010 season and the mark met last season. You can read more about that here.

But indicators of the Virginia football fan base's "wait-and-see mind frame," as Athletic Director Craig Littlepage put it, go beyond season ticket sales. Average attendance has declined steeply since 2005. In the past five seasons, Scott Stadium -- with a capacity of 61,500 -- has been sold out for four games.

Here is a breakdown of the average attendance of Virginia home football games the past five seasons (the team's record for each season is in parenthesis):

2005 -- 60,973 (7-5)
2006 -- 57,732 (5-7)
2007 -- 59,824 (9-4)
2008 -- 53, 815 (5-7)
2009 -- 47, 986 (3-9)

Here is a rundown on the four games Virginia sold out at Scott Stadium in the past five seasons (the game's outcome is in parenthesis):

Oct. 15, 2005 vs. Florida State (26-21 W)
Nov. 19, 2005 vs. Virginia Tech (52-14 L)
Nov. 24, 2007 vs. Virginia Tech (33-21 L)
Aug. 30, 2008 vs. Southern California (52-7 L)

And here are the season ticket sales numbers for the past five seasons:

2005 -- 39,811
2006 -- 39,876
2007 -- 39,522
2008 -- 35,538
2009 -- 30,507

Virginia has sold 27,469 season tickets for the 2010 season thus far, well short of its stated goal of 31,751.

As Littlepage and executive associate AD Jon Oliver noted, the economic recession certainly has had an impact on people's ability to purchase tickets to sporting events. But the team's recent on-field product certainly hasn't helped matters.

In addition to improving the Cavaliers' performance on Saturdays in the fall, London also was charged with beginning the process of shepherding fans back to Scott Stadium. London's administrative assistant possesses a folder roughly 3.5 inches thick of all the public appearances London made since he took the job last December.

So far, the reaction has been mostly positive. How long it takes for that reaction to translate into ticket sales remains to be seen.

"In terms of where we're going now, I would agree that there's a very positive perception of Mike London and what he's doing, but as I've said to a number of people, right now the goal isn't to just get you to buy a ticket," Oliver said. "Our goal right now is to get you to want to support this football program again. I think that's the first step. And then as he builds it and builds it the right way, then I think it's going to be easier for people to make it a priority again to buy these tickets.

"They may have left for any number of reasons, but to get them back is not just a matter of making them feel good about the coach. We want them to support the team and say, 'That's our program,' again. And then they'll get behind it as they see this thing start to develop."

By Steve Yanda  |  August 4, 2010; 3:42 PM ET
 
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