Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas cited declining football attendance as a concern when announcing the dismissal of Ron Zook and the hiring of Tim Beckman.
Illinois' average football attendance has slipped from 59,545 in 2009 to 54,188 in 2010 to 49,548 in 2011. Although other Big Ten programs have seen reductions, Illinois' drop off is the most dramatic.
In addition to changing coaches, the school is making it easier for fans to attend games. Illinois is dropping prices for some football tickets in the 2012 season, according to the plan unveiled Tuesday.
Season tickets for sideline seats will be sold for $230 or about $32.86 per game. The same seats went for $40 per game in 2011.
Single-game tickets also were lowered. In 2011, Illinois charged $65 per ticket for games against Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin, and $50 for the remaining five home games. Tuesday's plan has Big Ten single-game tickets at $50 and nonconference games against Western Michigan, Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech for $25.
Season tickets for premium locations remain at $45 per game. Season tickets for students and in the south end zone remain at $99, a slight increase (less than $2) in price per game from 2011.
While Illinois would rather be raising prices like most of its Big Ten brethren, Tuesday's plan is a must. The Big Ten home schedule isn't overly glamorous -- Penn State, Minnesota, Indiana and Purdue -- and there's not a signature non-league opponent like Arizona State in 2011.
Most important, Illinois needs butts in seats, and while the team's performance will be the biggest factor, Tuesday's plan is a good start.