COLLEGE PARK -- University of Maryland athletic officials are expecting more than the projected $2.3 million in football gate receipts this year because of the increased attendance and ticket sales of the five home games.
Maryland (1-1) drew a crowd of 36,198 at 41,000-seat Byrd Stadium in the opener two weeks ago against Virginia and had 41,310 Saturday night against Syracuse.
The Terps are expecting a near-sellout crowd Saturday when they play host to West Virginia, and university officials have announced that the Nov. 9 game against Penn State at 53,371-seat Memorial Stadium in Baltimore is a sellout. The Terps have only one other home game, their Oct. 26 homecoming date against Duke, which traditionally has been a big draw.
"I can't give you exact numbers or a projection in terms of dollars, but we're well ahead of last year financially," said athletic directory Andy Geiger. "We're only slightly ahead of our projections this year, but that's better than being on the other side. I like the way the people are supporting our program. I'm thoroughly encouraged."
Last year, the budget for the football program was $1.89 million, and gate receipts were $1.16 million. But the program still made money because of a $2.725 million gross revenue that included money from gate receipts, guarantees from other schools and bowl and television revenue.
This year, the budget for the program is $2.55 million, and gross revenue is projected at $4.3 million (the biggest increases from a year ago are television and radio revenue). That figure includes an expected increase in attendance, but not to the extent seen so far.
According to Maryland ticket manager Jack Zane, the university sold nearly 10,200 season tickets this season. Last year the school sold about 9,000, but 3,000 were give-aways through the Terrapin Club, a policy that was eliminated before the start of this season. Zane also said he has noticed an increase in student ticket sales. For instance, 11,000 students attended Saturday's game against Syracuse. Last year, the top number was 7,700.
There are a number of other reasons for the increased interest. Last year, for the first time since 1985, Maryland had a winning season (6-5-1) and participated in a bowl, the Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl.
Also, Virginia is close in proximity, while Syracuse, Penn State and West Virginia are eastern powers. Geiger also likes the idea of playing more night football games. The Syracuse game was the first night one at Maryland since the Terps opened their season with Louisville in 1988.
"I was impressed with our night football crowd," said Geiger. "I was concerned with the tailgating, but it seemed to be marginal in areas, and I have had no reports of any incidents. I can't see any other real reason, except for television, for us to stop playing night games on cool, September and October nights. It allows us to attend or perform other social functions on Saturday during the day, and it's great for a family's night out."