CLEMSON -- Football season ticket sales are down six percent from this point last year at Clemson, according to associate athletic director Katie Hill.
The decline is traced to a number of factors including effects from the recession, the slow economic recovery and perhaps fans' dissatisfaction following the program's first losing season in 12 years.
Of the season tickets Clemson has already sold, Hill estimates the number is down 10-15 percent from 2007-08 levels.
"I still think the economy has got us," Hill said. "It's probably a variety of things, depending on the ticket buyer. … It can be dissatisfaction, it can be any of those reasons.
"But it's not over."
One might surmise the economy is a main driver behind the decline as ACC champion Virginia Tech also has a season ticket renewal decline of six percent, according to Virginia Tech administrator Lisa Rudd.
Clemson's mail-in deadline for season ticket renewals passed on April 30. The athletic department is now making phone calls to previous season ticket holders.
Clemson's other hope is that a strong start to the season will result in an increase in single-game sales.
That makes the Tigers' early season stretch of games against Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech critical not only toward Clemson's on-field perception and place in the standings but also to spark sales.
"You can always pick up (attendance) with single-game sales," Hill said. "If we have a wonderful showing against Auburn, we have an opportunity … (season-ticket renewals) are not always a good indicator and we really aren't done until the last game."
But if a six-percent decline held through the whole season, Clemson would suffer a $1 million decline in revenue.
Following Clemson's Atlantic Division title, ticket revenue rose from $14.3 million in 2009 million to $15.3 million last season. But it was still a decline from $15.9 million in ticket sales in 2008.
Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips says it is too early to project final sales numbers.
"A lot depends on how the season goes," Phillips said. "I think we'll have a reasonably good year in ticket sales. … There has been a pretty substantial impact given the recession and that we are in a slow recovery. It's going to take us a while to get back to where we were four, five years ago, which were all-time highs until the economic downturn."
Even with the prospect of a ticket sales decline, Hill does not believe the athletic department will face a deficit this fiscal year. And at the end of the year good news arrives for the program, which will begin enjoying the new television contract signed last spring between the ACC and ESPN/ABC.
Clemson will receive an increase of $3.8 million in television revenue, with the first check arriving in December to blunt any possible ticket sales declines.
Follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter @travis_sawchik