It's not accurate to say that Michigan State football hasn't felt the sting of the economy. It is accurate, however, to say that MSU has found a way to keep folks paying to come to games despite the down economy, and that's why Sparty is still on track to equal or better its 2008 season ticket sales of 58,708.
The key has been, according to an Associated Press report, discounts offered to new alums and the family plans, as well as "aggressive advertising."
One tactic MSU hasn't been willing to take so far for football is that of mini packs, something offered at other FBS schools, including Maryland and Purdue. Those combine one of the "big" games (Ohio State or Notre Dame, in Purdue's case, Virginia Tech for Maryland) with other games less likely to sell out on their own. MSU has done a version of that for hockey in previous years, though the buyer picked all of the games.
As we've explained in several posts, football is the breadwinner for the entire athletic department. If it does well, the department does well. If it suffers, everyone suffers.
To be sure, MSU would rather sell out Spartan Stadium at full price. It costs the university $11 a game for each family plan season ticket sold ($33/game) instead of a full-price season ticket ($44/game). But wouldn't you rather have $33 a game - $231 for the season - than nothing at all? And remember that number doesn't include concessions, souvenirs or parking fees, which all help MSU's bottom line.
Discounts, once dismissed out of hand, are now a fact of life for almost every sports team, college or pro, given the terrible economy. And while MSU's certainly taking a hit in an effort to sell out the stadium, fans should take heart that the ticket office is getting the job done filling the place.
Update: WILX's Tim Staudt got to peek at actual ticket counts and reports that MSU has 5,000 tickets left for the Montana State game and about 700 left for Central. The rest of the games are already sold out or on pace to do just that.