Only 21 percent of enrolled UO students will get football tickets from the lottery each game
The state of University of Oregon student tickets for the 2015-2016 football season is no longer in flux.
The ASUO Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee’s (ACFC) long-awaited agreement with athletic department over student ticket allotment will be finalized within the next week, ASUO Finance Director Shawn Stevenson said.
The end result: Students won’t pay any more for tickets to athletic events, but 300 of their 5,448 seats at Autzen Stadium will be withdrawn from the online lottery and sold as student PAC-12 season ticket packages for $300 each.
The athletic department requested a 10 percent increase in student funds for tickets to sporting events last fall, then threatened to cut tickets if students did not pay at least a 3 percent increase. Stevenson said this is the third time he’s seen the athletic department request this increase.
“It’s just a negotiating tactic,” Stevenson said. “They ask for a 10 percent increase, knowing that will be negotiated down or toward a 3 percent increase. They usually want to have a consistent 3 percent increase.”
Members of the ACFC concluded that any increase in funds was inappropriate if students did not receive additional tickets in return, so they finally defaulted to no increase.
“I don’t really see why they always ask for more money,” Stevenson said. “In my opinion, they were trying to create a small amount of revenue really just on the backs of students.”
Students currently pay around 48 percent of the market value for the tickets. Athletics annually requests an increase, so that students will cover 50 percent, Stevenson said.
Past ACFC members made a tentative agreement with athletics that students would pay half the tickets’ market value, but current members are not bound to past members’ commitments, Stevenson said.
With the recent success of Ducks football, prices for regular season ticket holders have increased significantly more than those for students over the course of the last five or six years, Senior Associate Athletic Director Craig Pintens said. Season tickets this year are priced at $521 on GoDucks.com.
“As far as student tickets, our goal is to get to the value of half what they would be worth for season tickets, and we’re not there,” Pintens said. “That difference has to be made up. So really, we’re falling short of our projections.”
Last year, however, football ticket prices stopped increasing. Economics professor Bill Harbaugh, who runs a blog called UO Matters, speculated that prices won’t be raised anymore because fans would rather watch the game on big screen TVs at home.
“What [the athletic department] would like to do is convert those student seats so it can charge other people more for them,” Harbaugh said. “From [the department’s] point of view, it’s lost revenue. But it’s supposed to be a college sport, so it’d be nice to have some students watch it.”
Students, who face 3.7 to 3.8 percent tuition increases this year, currently spend about $1.7 million out of the $15 million ASUO budget on tickets to all varsity sporting events. Football and men’s basketball tickets — due to their high demand — are then distributed via online lottery on GoDucks.com. The first students that sign on at a designated time are able to claim one ticket for themselves.
According to USA Today’s 2014 annual report of NCAA finances, Oregon athletics generated about $196 million in revenue, the most by any athletic department nationwide, and spent just over $110 million.
But Pintens said there was “no extra cash” because about half of the athletic department’s revenue came in the form of contributions that do not represent a spendable cash flow last year.
Phil and Penny Knight donated $95 million to build the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, a performance center for football personnel that features hand-woven rugs from Nepal, Ferrari leather chairs and bathroom mirrors with built-in TVs. Large capital gifts show up as revenue in the report. No other athletic department in the country received more than $50 million in contributions.
“The Hatfield-Dowlin Complex was a gift, so however the building comes to us is how it comes to us,” Pintens said. “You can’t spend a building — that’s not cash. We didn’t make any money last year.”
With 300 fewer football tickets available via the online lottery this year, only 21 percent of enrolled students will have the chance to claim tickets on GoDucks.com the weekend before home gamedays.
“My freshman year I didn’t get one and the game was on my birthday, so I had to sit in my dorm room while everyone else was at the game,” journalism major Ally Brayton said. “We pay so much money in tuition I feel like we should be able to attend the game for free.”
Incoming freshman Audrey Marlatt said she won’t take her chances with the lottery. She hopes to purchase a $300 student PAC-12 season ticket package, which are first come, first serve, but consistently sell out within 24 hours.
The students’ deal with athletics also includes 1,854 seats at Matthew Knight Arena for men’s basketball games available via lottery. Student tickets usually run out only for games against high-profile opponents like Arizona or UCLA. However, most games students don’t claim all 1,854.
The ACFC last year proposed to remove some basketball tickets allotted to students in order to offset their potential increase in funds. Stevenson said athletics, however, didn’t want to go this direction.
“A lot of the hesitation is really on their part,” Stevenson said. “Athletics doesn’t like to look at their ticket packages [by individual sport]. [Athletics] really wants them to be a package deal.”
While Autzen Stadium sold 106.87 percent of its 54,000-person capacity last year and has sold greater than 100 percent every year since 1997, Matthew Knight Arena only sold an average of 62 percent of its 12,364-person capacity for men’s basketball games last year.
“It’s a huge arena, full of empty seats,” Harbaugh said. “They should be happy to fill it up with students.”
EMU Board Chair Miles Sisk, who served as Senate vice president last year, said the ASUO finds itself in a predicament negotiating with the athletic department year after year.
“We’re always stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Sisk said. “We either give them tons and tons of money and get even more tickets — which is just a huge burden on the ASUO budget — or give them nothing more and lose tickets, which is what we did this year.”
Sisk said more creative ways for the ASUO to raise money for tickets do exist, but haven’t been fully explored, yet. For example, the NCAA profited from Taco Bell’s sponsorship of the student section at the national championship between Oregon and Ohio State because the game drew so many viewers.
Sisk said the ASUO could make a contract with a company to sponsor the student section as well.
“From the conversations I’ve had, we could probably pull in somewhere around $500,000 — maybe more — that would cut back on the cost of the tickets,” said Sisk.
Such a solution could either fray the cost burden for students or even net them more tickets. Until then, let the 21 percent with the fastest download speeds prevail.
Disclosure: Ally Brayton, who was quoted in this story, was a former reporter for the Emerald.
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