Last Thursday, thousands of UGA students sat glued to their cell phone screens, waiting to find out if they had received a home football ticket package. Many returning students were shocked at the sudden change in distribution policy: In previous years, students were either awarded a full ticket package or no tickets at all. This year however, 20% of students received a ticket package without one of the two marquee matchups, the Alabama and South Carolina games. This allotment was intended to resolve the problems associated with overselling and overcrowding which were witnessed en masse at the Auburn and Clemson games in 2014, and to a lesser extent at the LSU game in 2013. Students who did not receive Alabama or South Carolina tickets reacted with frustration, and many immediately resorted to online ticket scalping deals with other students in excess of $400.
This past Monday afternoon, several days after the initial package awards, UGA informed students via email that it had amended its student ticket policy. Formerly, students could transfer tickets directly from one student account to another. Now, individuals are barred from transferring Alabama and South Carolina tickets to other student ID numbers.
This rule change came as a shock to students, since nothing of the sort had been alluded to when they were purchasing tickets or when the distribution emails were sent. By changing this policy, the Athletic Association was attempting to cut down on the ticket scalping already rampant on Facebook, Craigslist, and any other site that students could employ to sell $8 tickets for $500 each.
This surprising policy alteration shows, quite clearly, that UGA has failed to modernize its ticket policy to reflect the demand for the games which many fans enjoy. The Athletic Association has not kept pace with the student ticket policies of its peers in the SEC. For example, the University of Alabama will play four games away from home this year, including the UGA home game on October 3rd. Below, I have sketched how Alabama’s remaining three opponents handled the distribution of tickets for those games. All three institutions have developed different distribution methods, with new ideas that could be cherry-picked to develop a new, fairer process for football ticket allotment at UGA.
Like UGA, Auburn bases its ticket distribution on credit hours earned. Nevertheless, three key differences separate it from UGA’s “random pool” system. First, students are given a window of time, based on their earned hours, to register for tickets. This slot determines students’ priority in line for ticket distribution. Someone who is very motivated to purchase tickets will sign in at the beginning of his or her window, earning greater priority over those who only decide a few days later that they wish to purchase a package.
Next, Auburn students are afforded a choice of packages, from full-season to four-game to two-game packages. Although students who register late or have not taken a sufficient number of hours may end up in a lottery, they can at least choose which package and games they are entering to win.
Lastly, packages including the Auburn v. Alabama game are more expensive than other sets,
reflecting a rational market response. The Alabama game is in high demand, so Auburn Athletics has increased prices in hopes that the students who value the tickets, and thus are willing to pay more, will ultimately be able purchase them. This increases the per-game cost of the entire package by only a small amount over packages which do not contain the Alabama game. Within the entire student ticketing system, keeping package prices tens or even hundreds of dollars below fair market cost allows students to attend games affordably.
Texas A&M University
A full-season package of Texas A & M football tickets costs $290, including free admission to all other Aggie sporting events. If students only want to attend certain games, they are offered a choice of packages: one containing the Alabama game and the other with the Mississippi State and Auburn games. Students are given the choice of purchasing a package which contains the particular games they wish to attend.
Mississippi State University
With arguably the fairest program in the SEC, Mississippi State integrates their version of the Commit to the G student rewards program with the ticket distribution system to reward students who support Mississippi State athletics by regularly attending other events for other sports. Students who show the commitment to the school in other ways gain not only season ticket priority, but also priority for receiving post-season tickets and advantage for purchasing packages as young alumni. Mississippi tickets remain cheaper than UGA’s at $55 for the whole season.
This short survey of other SEC student ticket programs shows undoubtedly that UGA has plenty of options when deciding to alter its ticket policy. Raising prices, integrating the rewards program, offering different game packages, or instituting a priority system based on what time a student applied for tickets are all viable possibilities. So far, UGA has waited until a series of missteps (LSU 2013, Clemson and Auburn 2014, the aforementioned 2015 lottery) forced it into the tough and shortsighted decisions made over the past few days. Now, students who were unfortunate enough not to get a full package are left with no legitimate way to acquire tickets other than leaving it to the donation pool and chance—which failed them a few days ago.
—Tristan Bagala is a junior studying political science
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