Here's the letter that the University of Tennessee released today announcing that this fall, for the first time, students will need to pay for football tickets:
In the past, students have received free tickets to football with a valid UT ID. This year, students who chose to attend football games will be required to pay for tickets at a reduced rate of $90 per season ticket or $15 per game if purchased on an individual game basis. We will work closely with SGA over the next couple of months to create a distribution plan that the students want.
This was by no means an easy decision to make. During the 2009 budgeting process it became apparent to avoid a multi-million dollar budget shortfall, the athletic department would have to find new revenue. As you may know, UT Athletics budget is self generating and we are one of less than 10 athletic departments in the country that does not operate on funds from local, state or university dollars (with the exception of $1 million from student fees that goes to women's athletics).
As we started to look for solutions, we wanted to make sure our decisions would not negatively impact campus budgets. Many people aren't aware of a lot of the donations we make to the university. Last year, the athletics department contributed more than $25 million to the university in some fashion, including $1.375 million in academic scholarships awarded to non-student athletes, $1.125 million in annual debt service on five University parking garages, and $11.99 million in athletic benefits to University employees and students through free or reduced rate tickets to sporting events, licensing revenue, player of the game scholarships, and alumni association tickets that are used to raise money for other areas of campus.
After months of looking at our options, we decided we had to spread the increase over several areas - a $19 increase on all season tickets, raising the faculty/staff ticket prices from 50 percent of cost to 80 percent of cost and creating a paid student season ticket. These changes mirror policies at several SEC institutions.
For the 20+ years, UT Women's Athletics has received $1 million from student fees, which is substantially less than many of our peer schools. We could have increased student activity fees; however, we felt this was a more fair approach since only the students who wanted to attend games would be the additional cost. As we looked at our peer institutions, we discovered that UT was one of only three schools -South Carolina and Vanderbilt- in the SEC offering free tickets for students. One advantage to this change is that students who purchase season tickets can guarantee their tickets for every game at the beginning of the season.
I have attached a grid of similar institutions and their student football tickets. Please let me know if you need additional information.