Sex, Drugs, and Student Tickets to Volunteers Football Games

or:  Three Things That Cost More Than Anybody Would Like.

By now, I'm certain everybody has heard that UT is going to charge actual money for the tickets that students receive to attend football games in Neyland Stadium.  As in all things economical, price increases are met with resistance; increases from zero to some nonzero value are the most highly despised.  But the sheer excitement (i.e. agitiation) that has accompanied the student ticket fare has cause some misrepresentation of the situation on various levels.  Here, I will go over the basics of the cost of student tickets and address a few of the less well-understood points.

This is neither a complaint nor a defense of student ticket prices; this is merely an attempt to set some facts out.

By all means, feel free to debate when I'm done, but please remember that I'm just the messenger here.

1.  THE PRICE OF STUDENT TICKETS IS:  $15 FOR A SINGLE GAME OR $90 FOR A SEASON TICKET

The $90 price is the number that is usually discussed simply because it's the higher number.  Unfortunately, it hasn't always been explicity described as the season ticket price; often the line sounds something like, "UT is charging students $90 for football tickets!"  Technically, that line is correct, but it sounds like a single-game price.

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Student food - in UT colors, even! (via oskay)

2.  THE STUDENTS' ATHLETIC FEES WERE UNAFFECTED

Mike Hamilton explicitly state that charging for tickets was chosen over raising student athletic fees so that the expense was optional.  If a student didn't go to the game, they didn't pay any extra.

3.  THE MEN'S ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT WAS FACING A FORECASTED $3 MILLION SHORTFALL

The deficit was a result of increased salaries (things like coaching raises, but also things like state-required staff pay increase), increased transportation costs (join the club), and increased debt repayment.  Some of the debt issues were brought about by unallocated expenses like the new hardwood basketball floors in Pratt Pavilion, construction cost overruns, and credit card charges.  (Yes, credit cards: when you pay by credit card, the payee must pay a portion of that money to the credit card company as a service fee.  As more boosters donate by card and as more attendees buy tickets by card, this expense continues to increase.  It's up to around $200,000 per year for the men's AD.)

Make of this what you will.  No matter what the root causes were, the shortfall was very real.

4.  TICKET PRICES ARE GOING UP ACROSS THE BOARD

You probably knew that too, but it is worth keeping in mind that UT didn't let anybody off the hook.  Non-student season tickets increased by $19.  Faculty and staff discounts were reduced by 30 percent.

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(via ninjapoodles)

5.  THE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT HAS CONSISTENTLY TRIMMED ITS OPERATING BUDGET FOR SEVERAL YEARS

A point that is rarely made is that the men's athetic department has actually reduced its operating expenses over the last several years, and it operating at a level $1.1 million dollars lower than five years ago.  Use of commercial plane flights has increased, and use of the UT charter plane has been restricted to head coaches for limited purposes.  Entertainment expeditures for prospects has been limited, though that's mostly due to tightened NCAA regulations.

6.  UNSOLD STUDENT TICKETS WILL BE PLACED ON THE OPEN MARKET

In one of the more bitterly amusing twists to the whole story, there was an announcement made last Spring that any unsold student tickets would be made available to the general public at regular ticket prices.  That announcement was made just as the students were starting to organize their protest plans.  A movement to encourage students to buy none of the student tickets was beginning to develop (two camps: those who still wanted to buy conference-game tickets and those who wanted to boycott all games) when that little piece of news came across.  The image of a student section filled with rival fans (most likely rival students for SEC games) caused the students to give that idea up.

Because of this, you're not likely to see significant gaps in the student section during conference games.  Nonconference games with low attendance forecasts may be missing a lot of students, though.

7.  A FEW COMPARISONS TO OTHER SCHOOLS

  • Until this move, UT was one of only 3 schools in the SEC that did not charge students for football tickets.  Vanderbilt and South Carolina are the other two.
  • The $90 season ticket price is fairly median for major programs.  Michigan charges $195 (season ticket) for the privilege of freezing in November and watching the Wolverines get rolled by Ohio State.  Georgia charges $35 (season ticket) to watch UT hang half-a-hundred on the Dawgs.
  • UT is one of a very small list of schools where the men's athletic department does not draw from state funds.  In most programs at most schools (and including UT's women's athletic department), the state provides funding for a portion of the budget.  (Well, at least one tradition remains unaffected.)

8.  BONUS ROUND:  BLAME THE FACULTY!

Yes, the faculty can be viewed as a party to the creation of student ticket prices!  After all, if they didn't pursue a veto of the AD's request for alcohol sales at sporting events, the athletic department would certainly have had a greater revenue stream and would likely not have had to charge students at all.  (Remember that only football tickets are being charged, but that the alcohol sales would have been for more than just football games.)  So the actions of the Faculty Senate ran counter to two fine traditions: free student football tickets and beer!

(Yes, I'm being humorous, but only partly.  The Faculty Senate did in fact cause the AD to withdraw their request for an alcohol license.)

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Good Old Rocky Tap! (via sh1mmer)

9.  BOTTOM LINE

Collegiate sports cost a lot of money to run, especially if you want to be a big-time program.  With the exception of the University of Alabama, most men's athletic departments do not run as a for-profit business would normally run; rather, they are some sort of hybrid between a university entity and a private entity.  Techincally private, technically commercial, yet inextricably tied to the public nature of the institution they represent, AD's run into some funny budgeting issues that aren't even worth addressing here.  But all that money has to come from somewhere.

Yes, it stinks.  Nobody wants to see the students charged for tickets.  Nobody wants to see the AD overrun its budget, either.  Form your own opinion, but at least you know more about the story.

10.  SOURCE ARTICLES

If you want to read some of the news articles from the time of the announcement, these three will get you most of what you need.  From there, feel free to search for more:

  1. Daily Beacon announcing the ticket prices
  2. Knox News explaining the ticket prices
  3. Daily Beacon discussing the Faculty Senate veto

Some letters to the editor at the Daily Beacon:

  1. Management Argument
  2. Economics Argument
  3. Anti-Fulmer Argument
  4. A Hopeful Student (they're just so cuuute at that age!)
  5. Being Competitive Requires Playing Well  (Their words, not mine. --hooper)
  6. If only they had told us sooner!
  7. Darn the torpedoes!  Vol speed ahead!
  8. It's not so bad, really.
  9. UT:  Make Orange Green!
  10. By George, I think this man gets it!
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