ASUO’s Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee voted against renewing its athletics ticketing agreement at a Jan. 19 budget hearing. This means the student ticket subsidy will not be funded for the 2021-22 academic year, with the money reallocated to a handful of new programs that ACFC believes will more equitably serve the University of Oregon student body.
Under the prior agreement, ACFC paid the athletics department 80% of the market price for football and men’s basketball tickets out of the incidental fee — a mandatory student registration fee that goes toward ASUO programming, including student organizations, legal services and programs through the Erb Memorial Union.
The UO athletics department declined to speak with the Daily Emerald for this story.
According to the 2020-21 contract, ACFC and athletics had mutually agreed upon this markdown rate beginning with Fiscal Year 2016-17. For the 2020-21 fiscal year, ACFC was paying over $1.7 million in student fees for the ticketing contract. The agreement stood at 50% of market value prior to the 2016 deal.
This price allowed I-fee paying members to attend any Ducks sporting event with a student ID — with the exception of football and men’s basketball, which were run through a lottery system that students had to register for.
In place of the athletics contract, ACFC is allocating the $1.7 million to seven new programs: menstrual product accessibility in the EMU, a tiered textbook subsidy program for students with financial need, a basic needs coordinator who will help students apply to programs like SNAP, a student advocacy coordinator for ASUO’s peer-to-peer advocacy work, an across-the-board 20% wage increase for students employed at UO, an emergency housing subsidy fund and a redistribution of roughly $400,000 to other finance committees — which will allow ASUO to decrease or maintain the current I-fee for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
“The reality is not everyone gets a football ticket,” ACFC chair Annika Mayne said, “and a football ticket is not going to pay your rent or help you with legal trouble or increase your wage.”
At the hearing, Deputy Athletic Director Eric Roedl said roughly 65% of the UO undergraduate population will make use of the contract between athletics and ACFC to attend a sports game in a typical year.
“We felt like it was a really huge inequity that every student was paying for tickets for games they weren't attending,” Mayne said.
ASUO allocated money for the athletics contract — like all ASUO-funded programs — a fiscal year in advance, meaning ASUO had already approved the 2020-21 budget before ACFC knew the university wouldn’t allow fans into sporting events.
Although athletics isn’t getting paid for its services this year because it isn’t selling tickets, ACFC allocated over $1.7 million to the agreement for the 2020-21 academic year — roughly 10% of ASUO’s total budget. This number matches that of the 2019-20 fiscal year and is a slight increase from 2018-19.
Since the current I-fee breaks down to $271.75 per person per term, every student enrolled at UO this year would be paying about $27 every term for athletics tickets — whether or not they actually attend sporting events. Instead, the money will remain in ASUO’s general fund, where it will help its finance committees fill any deficit parts of their budgets.
Though ACFC has discussed reducing the ticket subsidy in years past, ACFC member Jon Laus said the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement last summer cemented that call to action for him.
“There are programs that we simply can’t ignore anymore,” Laus said at the hearing. He listed textbook subsidies and free menstrual products as a few of those priorities. “We feel they are so important that the contract in its current form is outdated, especially with the other responsibilities we have as ASUO student members.”
At the budget hearing, Mayne emphasized ACFC’s appreciation for its contract with athletics, but said the opportunity to reallocate I-fee funding to all UO students — not just those attending Ducks games — was something the committee wanted to take advantage of.
“We greatly appreciate this agreement we’ve held,” Mayne said at the hearing, “but the reality is access to food, access to getting a paid job that would allow students to stay enrolled at the university is, at this time and always, significantly more important than access to a game.”
From the hearing, ACFC’s budget proposal will go to the ASUO senate, Mayne said. Pending the senate’s approval, it will make its way to ASUO President Isaiah Boyd before going to UO President Michael Schill. Both Boyd and ASUO Senate President Claire O’Connor voiced their support for the plan during the public comment section of the budget hearing.
“There are some populations of students that I’m sure aren’t going to be happy about this,” said Laus. “But by and large, it’s a university, it’s not a sports team.”
Even though choosing not to invest in the athletics contract next year means ticket costs for students are up in the air, both Mayne and Laus said they’re excited about the new programs ASUO is launching by reallocating the athletics funding. Mayne pointed to the student salary increase as one of the major talking points of the agreement. The 20% raise means students who currently hold minimum wage positions will earn $15.30 per hour beginning next year.
Joanna Mann contributed reporting to this story.
Editor’s Note: ACFC funds several UO student organizations, including Emerald Media Group, which is partially funded through ACFC. Read here for more information on ACFC funding for the Emerald, which does not influence our reporting on it and ASUO.