Last fall, the University of Missouri was rocked by race protests that helped topple the president and chancellor, and sparked a backlash that included drops in enrollment and a retreat by some donors.
On Wednesday, the University of Missouri’s interim president addressed the tumultuous protests: There are “some very, very progressive people [who are] supportive of the students… and eager to make changes,” Michael Middleton said—and then there are “people who think that it was out of control… just bitter, angry people over the fact that this happened in the first place.”
Perhaps Middleton, who was speaking to the National Press Club, shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss that latter group of people, which includes scores of dismayed donors, alumni, parents and prospective students. Mizzou’s interim president acknowledged that the university is facing a $30 million funding shortfall because of decreased enrollment in the fall, which is, in part, a reaction to the protests.
New records reviewed by Heat Street suggest Mizzou’s dearth of support may run even deeper. Wholesale purchases of Mizzou-branded apparel and gear (sold via retailers that are licensed by the college) are down after the protests, as are ticket purchases to sporting events.
In the first 10 months of fiscal year 2016, which began last July, wholesale sales were $19.8 million. Over the same stretch of FY2015 and FY2014, they were $22 million and $21.8 million.
Football season-ticket purchases were also down, though the fiscal year will end next month. Mizzou had six home football games in FY2016, compared to seven the two years prior. But as of May 1, the university had sold $13.5 million in season tickets. In 2015, that sum was $15.1 million, and in 2014, it was $14.6 million.
Likewise, season tickets to the men’s basketball games in FY2016 came in at just $3.4 million as of May 1—compared to $4.2 million in 2015 and $4.6 million in 2014.
After the protests quieted with the ousting of University of Missouri System president Tim Wolfe, as well as the resignation of Chancellor Bowen Loftin, hundreds of longtime Mizzou supporters wrote to the university to express their frustration, many of them promising to drop support, according to Heat Street’s earlier review of 7,400 emails from last fall.
One former Mizzou sports fan, according to the emails we reviewed, vowed to never “buy any tickets to a University of Missouri athletic event, to attend ay athletic event (even if free), to give away all my MU clothes (nearly my entire wardrobe) after I have removed any logos associated with University of Missouri, and any cards/helmets/ice buckets/flags with the University of Missouri Logo on it.”
If these new numbers are any indication, many others felt the same.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Independent Women’s Forum and the Steamboat Institute.