MONEY Sports

Why Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games

Bleachers at Michigan Stadium.
Bleachers at Michigan Stadium. Simon Bruty—Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

With college football ticket prices soaring and expanded conferences leading to less exciting matchups, fans—students in particular—are more likely to watch games from home.

There’s no denying that college football is a hugely successful business enterprise, arguably the second-biggest, most popular sport in the U.S. right now (after pro football in the NFL). But there’s one glaring crack in the armor that college football conferences and storied college programs have been struggling with for years: Fewer and fewer fans are actually buying tickets and attending games in person.

The problem is particularly evident among students, who aren’t buying tickets like generations past. For the upcoming season, the University of Michigan, the winner of no fewer than 11 national championships and 42 conference crowns, projects that student attendance will hit around 13,000—a shocking 40% less than the figure hit last year (roughly 19,000).

It’s not just a problem in Ann Arbor. The Wall Street Journal reported that student attendance fell 7.1% from 2009 to 2013, and that it has even fallen over the past few years at games hosted by perennial powerhouses such as Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida State, LSU, and the University of Florida. A year ago, observers took note that home attendance was down for the majority of teams in the SEC, even though the conference has thoroughly dominated college football in recent years.

The two most frequently cited reasons for the ticket slump are simply: 1) higher ticket prices; and 2) less interesting games. A student season ticket package at Michigan, for instance, now costs $295, up from $205 not long ago. There are only six homes games in the package, mind you, so that breaks down to just under $50 per game. “There are students who are being priced out,” a Michigan business student named Michael Proppe explained to the WSJ. “People are looking to trim costs, and for a lot of folks, football is an easy thing to cut. It’s not essential to going to college.”

What makes the decision easier for students at Michigan and other schools is the expectation that the games they’re missing aren’t going to be that good. The shifting and expansion of college football conferences has led to incredibly lucrative TV contracts for the programs involved, but it has also meant that traditional rivals don’t play every year like they used to. Michigan’s biggest rivals are Michigan State and Ohio State, but for the first time in nearly 40 years, the Wolverines won’t be hosting either team this season. Instead, Michigan will welcome the likes of Appalachian State and Miami (Ohio), opponents that many fans apparently think aren’t worth paying $50 to see.

As ticket prices have soared, and the quality of the product has declined, it has become more of a no-brainer for fans—poor students in particular—to stay home and watch the game on the couch. After all, this option has gotten cheaper and more entertaining and convenient in recent years, thanks to the declining prices of big-screen TVs and the advent of DVRs, multi-angle replays, and other innovations. Sure, the exciting roar of the crowd may not be there if you watch the game at home, or the frat house, or heck, in the parking lot while tailgating outside the stadium. But the way trends are going in terms of shrinking attendance at games, the crowd might not be all that loud inside the stadium either.

TIME weather

Heavy Flooding in Detroit Leaves 1 Dead, Tens of Thousands Without Power

Historic flooding in Motor City contributed to at least 1 death and knocked out power grids, with more rain expected

TIME Crime

Man Who Shot Unarmed Woman on Porch Convicted of Murder

Theodore Wafer sits in the court room during his arraignment in Detroit, Michigan on January 15, 2014.
Theodore Wafer sits in the court room during his arraignment in Detroit, Michigan on January 15, 2014. Rebecca Cook—Reuters

Could face life in prison for killing unarmed teen

A Michigan man was convicted of second degree murder Thursday for killing an unarmed woman on his porch last year.

Dearborn Heights resident Theodore Wafer, who is white, was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter charges and felony firearm charges, and could face life in prison for the death of 19-year old Renisha McBride, who was black.

“We are obviously very pleased with the jury verdict and feel that justice was served today,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said. “We sincerely hope that this brings some comfort to the family of Renisha McBride.” Wafer will be sentenced later this month.

McBride was killed last November when she sought help at Wafer’s home after crashing her car nearby. Wafer testified that he thought McBride was trying to break into his home. “I was not going to cower,” he said, according to the Detroit Free Press. I didn’t want to be a victim in my own house.” Wafer also testified that he shot McBride as a “total reflex.”

McBride’s death has frequently been compared to the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Florida teen who was killed in a case that ignited national debate about race, gun laws and so-called Stand Your Ground laws. Martin’s alleged killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of second-degree murder last year.

TIME 2014 Election

The 5 Takeaways from Tuesday’s Primaries

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, left, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts greet each other at Johnson County Republican's election watch party Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, in Overland Park, Kan.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, left, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts greet each other at Johnson County Republican's election watch party, Aug. 5, 2014, in Overland Park, Kan. Charlie Riedel—AP

The fight for the soul of the Republican Party rages on

Most of the results in the primaries in Michigan, Kansas, Missouri and Washington on Tuesday were predictable. But Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s surprise exit in June has primed most political watchers to look for unexpected results as the fight for the soul of the Republican Party rages on. This week’s results proved a mixed bag, with one incumbent going down but others surviving. From a Santa impersonator to Barack Obama’s cousin, here are the most interesting results from Tuesday’s primaries:
 
Sen. Pat Roberts survived. Three-term Kansas incumbent Roberts beat off Tea Party challenger Milton Wolf, a radiologist whose claim to fame is that he is President Obama’s cousin once removed. Roberts overcame questions about residency—whether he even maintained a home in Kansas—that brought down his colleague Dick Lugar in Indiana last cycle. But Milton faltered over the revelation of Facebook posts in which he apparently mocked patient X-rays. Roberts, who outraised Milton by $4.7 million to $1.1 million, was always ahead in the polls. A loss here would’ve been a huge upset.

Rep. Justin Amash survived. In a year when establishment Republicans like Roberts have generally prevailed against Tea Party challengers, they have less successfully gone on the offensive against Tea Party incumbent troublemakers like Amash. Despite being outspent and in the crosshairs of the Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove, the two-term Michigan Republican prevailed Tuesday night. Amash so angered House leadership with his antics, they stripped him of his Budget Committee membership in 2012. Apparently, being unpopular in the most unpopular institution in America is a winner with voters.

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio didn’t survive. If Amash hadn’t played his cards right, he could’ve easily have ended up like fellow Michigan upstart Bentivolio. The reindeer rancher and Santa impersonator was an accidental congressman. He happened to be the only one left on the ballot in 2012 when Rep. Thaddeus McCotter failed to properly qualify for the GOP ballot. Bentivolio didn’t toe the party line and failed to properly fundraise, leaving himself vulnerable to a challenge. Businessman David Trott won the backing of the Chamber of Commerce and self-funded $2.5 million to prevail Tuesday night.

Rep. Mike Pompeo survived. The perception of being an old school, ear marking Republican hurt former Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s bid to take back his former seat from Pompeo. Tiahrt, who represented Kansas’s fourth district from 1997 to 2011, left office to make an unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 2010. At the last minute before the May filing deadline, Tiahrt challenged his successor to win the seat back. Pompeo, though, had the backing of the Koch brothers and the anti-tax group the Club for Growth, who ran ads mocked Tiahrt’s “earmark of the day.” Pompeo won easily.

Two Republicans advanced from a crowded Washington primary. Doc Hastings,10-term incumbent and chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, is one of nearly three dozen House incumbents beating an path to the exit, disgusted with Congress’s newly intractable ways. But that didn’t stop a dozen people from running for the chance to succeed him. Washington has a top-two advance system regardless of party affiliation but in the reliably Republican 4th district, two Republicans topped the polls: Clint Didier, a former NFL star who won two Super Bowl rings with the Washington Redskins and ran as a Tea Partier and Dan Newhouse, a former state legislator and agricultural director. Which means, voters in that district will have until November to decide their own Tea Party versus establishment battle.

TIME Crime

12-Year-Old Charged in Fatal Playground Stabbing

Child Stabbed
Kentwood police investigate the fatal stabbing of a 9-year-old boy at Pinebrook Village playground in Kentwood, Mich. on Aug. 4, 2014. Joel Bissell—AP

A 12-year-old in Michigan faces murder charges after fatally stabbing another child in the back

(KENTWOOD, Mich.) — The giggles and innocence neighbors associated with the playground at the Pinebrook Village mobile home park vanished in the screams of a 9-year-old boy, who witnesses and authorities said was stabbed in the back by a 12-year-old.

The older boy now faces a murder charge, and authorities say they are still investigating what led to the attack.

“The kids, I thought they were just playing,” neighbor Barb Poelman, 50, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “They’re always out there playing.”

Michael Conner Verkerke, his brother, his best friend and another child were playing Monday on the playground in Kentwood, near Grand Rapids. Witnesses said one boy pulled a knife and stabbed Michael in the back.

“We were sitting right on our deck,” Poelman said. “We heard the kids run across the front … screaming. He (Michael) ran with the kids that were with him.”

Witnesses and police said Michael ran to his home and collapsed, bleeding on the porch. His mother, Poelman said, pleaded for help on the grass outside.

“She was screaming, ‘Where is the ambulance?’ while her boy was laying on the porch bleeding,” Poelman said.

Michael died a short time later at a hospital.

The 12-year-old, meanwhile, went to Glen Stacy’s home nearby after the stabbing, witnesses said. Stacy told The Grand Rapids Press the boy asked to use his phone. He said the boy called 911 to report the attack and turn himself in.

Stacy said he also called police and described the boy as “very calm.”

“The only time he raised his voice was when the police came,” Stacy said.

When officers arrived at the mobile home park, they first went to aid the stabbing victim, but the older boy wanted the officers to pick him up and yelled, “‘Hello, I’m right here. You’re going the wrong way,'” Stacy said.

Kentwood Police Chief Thomas Hillen said authorities were still investigating a motive for the attack. Police said the 12-year-old was evaluated at a hospital and then taken to the Kent County Juvenile Detention Center.

He pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in juvenile court Tuesday, according to his attorney, who told a court referee he may seek a mental evaluation to determine if the boy is competent to stand trial. The boy was ordered held until an Aug. 13 preliminary hearing.

The Associated Press is not naming the 12-year-old because of his age. He is designated as an adult in the juvenile court system, which would allow the boy, if convicted, to be sentenced as a juvenile and then as an adult once he turns 21, according to Chris Becker, Kent County’s chief assistant prosecutor.

A man who identified himself as Michael’s grandfather when the AP called a phone number listed for his home declined to comment. But Tiffany Armijo said her son was playing with Michael when he was attacked and that she had never seen the 12-year-old before.

“He was playing with Michael and his brother, and my kid, too,” she said, her voice breaking.

She declined to discuss any details about the attack, but said Michael was her son’s best friend and “a good kid.”

“They always played together. He was at my house almost every day,” she said.

Residents and strangers gathered near the playground Tuesday night to hold a vigil and pray.

Susan DeGroot said her 4-year-old grandson, Ewan Beukema, has played with Michael and the others in the sandbox and on the colorful play equipment.

“Ewan was not here and so I’m very thankful that he was not on the playground with the children at the time,” DeGroot told the AP on Tuesday. “But it’s a tragedy for the community.”

___

Williams reported from Detroit.

TIME justice

Porch Killing Defendant: ‘I Wasn’t Going to Cower’

Theodore Wafer testifies in his own defense during the seventh day of testimony for the Nov. 2, 2013, killing of Renisha McBride, on Aug. 4, 2014, in Detroit.
Theodore Wafer testifies in his own defense during the seventh day of testimony for the Nov. 2, 2013, killing of Renisha McBride, on Aug. 4, 2014, in Detroit. Clarence Tabb Jr.—AP

(DETROIT) — A suburban Detroit man said Monday that he was afraid when someone showed up on his porch before dawn one morning last year and started banging on his doors, but he wasn’t going to be a victim in his own home.

“I wasn’t going to cower in my house,” Theodore Wafer told jurors at his trial for the Nov. 2 killing of 19-year-old Renisha McBride, who was drunk but unarmed.

Wafer is charged with second-degree murder and could be sentenced to up to life in prison with the chance for parole, if he’s convicted. He says he shot McBride in self-defense, but prosecutors say Wafer could have stayed safely behind his locked doors and called 911 instead of confronting McBride, whom he didn’t know.

Wafer, 55, took the stand on the seventh day of testimony. Legal experts had speculated that he would have to testify in his own defense to convince the jury that he had a reasonable and honest fear for his life that morning.

Softly and methodically, Wafer told the Wayne County Circuit Court jury how he followed loud bangs from his front door to his side door and back to the front again before fetching his 12-gauge shotgun.

He said he opened the front door slightly and saw that the outer, screen door was damaged. He then opened the inner door further and “this person came out from the side of my house so fast. I raised the gun and shot,” he told jurors after taking the stand on the seventh day of testimony.

Wafer also said he thought there could have been more than one person outside of his 1,100-square-foot home near Detroit’s far west side. He said he pulled the trigger “to defend myself. It was them or me.”

When police arrived, McBride lay in a pool of blood just off the porch.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, some questioned whether race may have been a factor. Wafer is white and McBride was black, and some likened the killing to that of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. But race faded as an issue and wasn’t mentioned as a factor by prosecutors or defense attorneys during court hearings that preceded the trial.

Earlier in the trial, prosecutors played a recording of Wafer telling an officer that he didn’t know the gun was loaded. They contend that Wafer didn’t need to use deadly force against McBride

An autopsy found McBride’s blood-alcohol level was about 0.22, which is nearly three times Michigan’s legal limit for driving. About 3½ hours before Wafer killed her, McBride crashed her car into a parked vehicle on a Detroit street about half away.

Occasionally rubbing the right side of his head and speaking with his eyes closed, Wafer testified that he couldn’t afford to install a security system at his home, so he bought the shotgun about six years ago to help him defend it. Wafer also said the neighborhood had changed greatly since he bought the house in 1994.

Earlier Monday, a firearms expert testified for the defense that Wafer and McBride were both apparently standing close to his screen door when he shot her through it, killing her.

Retired state Trooper David Balash said the hole in the door made by the shotgun blast shows it was near the door when he fired it. He said the buckshot wounds on McBride’s body show she was standing near the door when Wafer shot her last fall.

“My opinion is she was very close to the door … within a foot,” Balash told the jury.

It is not clear how or why she showed up on Wafer’s porch. They didn’t know each other.

Prosecutors played a Wafer’s videotaped interview with police after the shooting before ending testimony Monday afternoon. He is expected back on the stand Tuesday morning.

TIME Environment

Toledo Lifts Drinking Water Ban

Mayor D. Michael Collins says it's now safe to drink the water

+ READ ARTICLE

Toledo, Ohio Mayor D. Michael Collins lifted a temporary ban on drinking water Monday, saying the city’s water supply is now safe to drink.

The ban, which began on Saturday, left thousands of residents of Toledo and surrounding areas without drinking water. Water tests showed a toxin, likely from an algae bloom, was contaminating a regional water supply from Lake Erie. Earlier on Monday, the Mayor had said the ban would remain in place. But he later raised a glass of the newly safe water in a toast to his city to prove that it was suitable to drink.

“Here’s to you, Toledo,” he said. “You did a great job.”

Bottled water was trucked in to the area while the ban was in effect, and the Ohio National Guard was purifying water for the residents, the Associated Press reports.

Officials had warned that drinking the contaminated water could cause symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. Locals were told not to ingest it, use it to brush their teeth, or boil it. Ohio Gov. John Kasich had declared a state of emergency in response to the problem.

 

TIME Crime

Murdered Teen Texted Boyfriend ‘I’m Being Kidnapped’

April Millsap
April Millsap, in an undated photo provided by the Millsap family via Michigan State Police, July 27, 2014. Michigan State Police/AP

Middle schooler was found dead hours after she left her home to walk the family dog

A 14-year-old Michigan girl who was found murdered last week reportedly texted her boyfriend just before her death.

“Omg… I think I’m being kidnapped,” was the text April Millsap’s boyfriend received from her phone the night she was killed last Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reports. Millsap, who was due to start high school in the fall, was found dead by the side of the road, hours after she had left her home in Armada, Michigan, to walk the family dog. A couple found her body later that night, guarded by the collie, named “Penny.” An autopsy report confirmed that April was murdered, but authorities declined to say how, specifying only that she was not shot or stabbed.

Police have interviewed Millsap’s parents and boyfriend, but said they are “not considered suspects in her death.”

[Detroit Free Press]

TIME Food & Drink

The Beer List at This Bar Looks Like a Stock Ticker

Invest responsibly

The Beer Exchange

A bar in Kalamazoo, Michigan, takes the fun of happy hour to a whole new level.

The Beer Exchange has been going viral on Reddit and Imgur in the last day because its beer list resembles a stock ticker — or a Bloomberg Terminal that dispenses alcohol. It displays the current prices for various kinds of beer, and as demand for the different types ebbs and flows, the prices rise and fall. Once in a while, there’s even a market crash that brings the beverages to their all-time low.

It’s a happy hour all the time—as long as you’re interested in the right beer. But unlike stock trading, there’s no reward for buying low and selling high. Besides getting buzzed, that is.

TIME justice

Insane Clown Posse Appeals Dismissal of Gang Lawsuit

Joseph Bruce, Violent J, Joseph Utsler, Shaggy 2 Dope
Joseph Bruce, aka Violent J, left, and Joseph Utsler, aka Shaggy 2 Dope, members of the Insane Clown Posse, address the media in Detroit, Jan. 8, 2014. The U.S. Justice Department is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by Insane Clown Posse, which objects to a report that describes its fans as a dangerous gang. Carlos Osorio—AP

ACLU lawsuit says FBI violated band's free speech when it labeled their "Juggalo" fanbase a "hybrid gang"

The music group Insane Clown Posse Tuesday appealed the dismissal of a lawsuit it filed against the Justice Department over a 2011 FBI report that designated the rap duo’s fans, known as “Juggalos,” as a gang.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan in January filed a lawsuit on behalf of the group alleging their free speech and due process rights, and those of their fans, were violated when the FBI labeled juggalos a “loosely organized hybrid gang.” ICP and Juggalos say they’ve been unfairly targeted by police because of the report.

U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland ruled last week that the Justice Department is not responsible for how other groups use their recommendations and that the report “does not recommend any particular course of action for local law enforcement to follow, and instead operates as a descriptive, rather than a prescriptive, assessment of nationwide gang trends.” The ACLU has appealed the decision to dismiss the suit.

In a statement, Tuesday, ICP member known as Violent J, also known as Joseph Bruce, said “This is not the end—we’ll keep fighting to clear the Juggalo family name.”

“Juggalos are not an organized fan club,” the ACLU says in its statement, “but a group of people who bond over the music and a philosophy of life, much like “Deadheads” bonded around the Grateful Dead.”

Juggalos, according to the FBI report, have been responsible for assaults and vandalism and a “small number” for more serious crimes. They were not included in the FBI’s most recent report.

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