In an article in last Saturday's Minneapolis Star Tribune, Maura Lerner outlined a plan that the University of Minnesota Athletic Department has for selling unsold student section tickets to the general public this fall. The Gophers plan to sell all unused student seats at the beginning of the season this fall, instead of the week of the game as was the case last season. The Board of Regents approved this plan last Friday.
Last season, the Gophers only sold 4,953 of an allotted 10,000 student tickets at TCF Bank Stadium. Any unsold student tickets would be put for sale to the general public on the Tuesday prior to a home game. This season however, the Gophers plan to put all unsold seats for sale after the end of the first week of school. However, there is a catch.
That catch according to Associate Athletic Director Mike Ellis is that the tickets will only be put up for sale if all other general public tickets are sold out. Additionally, 6,000 tickets will be held for students use no matter what, so that maximum amount of student section tickets that could be sold are 4,000. So what does this actually mean? Well, not much except for one specific game, and it actually will hurt the Gophers in the long run.
Considering the Gophers will only sell the unsold student tickets if all other public tickets are sold out, this is something that will not happen often. All three Gopher non-conference games in 2013 were at minimum 4,000 tickets short of a sellout. Both the Nebraska and Penn State games did not sell out last season. The only two games that were deemed a sellout were Iowa and Wisconsin. Thus we come to the problem of this decision.
The Gophers will not be expected to sell enough seats to any of their non-conference games for the unused student seats to go on sale. Most likely home games against Northwestern and Purdue will not reach these levels either, or if they do, they will be much later in the season if the Gophers are doing well and the scenario will be similar to previous seasons. They for sure will not be near sell-outs in early September. The only two Gopher home games where this could potentially occur are Ohio State, and of course, Iowa.
Ohio State will bring some fans, but it won't be an issue. Most likely they will not bring an additional 4,000 fans to buy all of the potentially available tickets. However, guess who will be thrilled about the opportunity to buy another 4,000 seats in TCF Bank stadium because the rest of the general public seats are sold out...yep Iowa fans.
I'm sure the athletic department just wants to make as much money as possible. So they see 4,000 unsold student tickets at an approximate $15 face value, and see that they can see them to Iowa fans for $60-70 each, and its a win for them.
As Ellis says in the article, it is the goal to sell out all 10,000 student seats to students, but it just hasn't been realistic. The Gophers sold an additional 1,000 tickets from 2012 to 2013, and early spring sales have been robust, but still will not reach anywhere near the 10,000 allotment.
As Gopher Associate AD Chris Werle says in the article, its not just a Minnesota issue. Both Michigan and Alabama have had notable issues with student tickets in the last few seasons. And with the increase in technology from home making it a more enjoyable environment to watch the game, these issues will not be disappearing anytime soon. But there has to be a better plan than basically opening up an additional 4,000 seats to one of your rivals.
A portion of this lies on the students as well. They have to make a commitment to come to the games. They are of course fickle when it comes to wins and losses, however, when they start to make the excuses that two of the U students did in the Star Tribune article, they really are just grasping at straws. The incoming student body president, Joelle Stangler made the same excuse that Gopher fans have been hearing since the Mason era. She said that due to the U's history as a commuter campus, "game day isn’t an integral part of every student’s life." That may have worked 10-15 years ago, but all those sparkling new apartment complexes in Dinkytown and Stadium Village say otherwise. The demographics have been changing to a much more residential oriented campus over the past few years, and all those nice new apartment buildings aren't cheap to live it, which brings us to our next student excuse.
Another U student, Mike Schmit is quoted in the article as saying he skipped buying season tickets his sophomore year because of cost. "Personally, I have over $30,000 in student loans," he said. "I could use this $100 somewhere else." No offense Mike, but $100 bucks isn't going to make a drop in the bucket in your student loans. If you don't want to buy tickets because you think the team is going to suck, be honest and say so. It's still a kind of crappy reason to not buy tickets, but at least it is one that is understandable. If you are worried about adding another miniscule $100 to your already $30k in debt, maybe you should switch your major from finance like you say it is. Your cost/benefit analysis doesn't seem to be working very well.
Basically, this will be an ongoing issue. There is no easy answer. Both parties are to blame here. However, it would be nice if the U could not come up with ideas that will put an additional 4,000 rival fans in the seats for trophy games, and it would be nice if the students could quit making lame excuses for not wanting to buy football tickets.
Improving technology at TCF would be a start. Some of this will come with the upgrades for the Vikings, but a wireless network where you might actually be able to connect in the stands would be a start. Wisconsin just agreed to a huge deal with AT&T to upgrade the wireless at Camp Randall. I know money is tight around the AD right now, but you're telling me we can't find a telecom/tech company to do the same for us? That of course would just be a drop in the bucket, but if you could get BTN2GO to actually work in the seats at TCF, it might take away some of the incentive to watch the game at home if you are seeing the same replays, etc from your seat.
So what say you Gopher fans? Any ideas on how to solve this problem? Am I being too easy/hard on the U or the students? Let us know in the comments below.