Lose It Or Move It

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What is this view worth, anyway?


Mostly ignored in the commotion and tension of the Indiana game was David Jones' pre-game blockbuster detailing the changes coming for students and season ticket holders at Beaver Stadium, beginning with the 2011 season:


When asked about the plan Friday night at the Bryce Jordan Center, where he was watching the Penn State-Penn men’s basketball game, athletic director Tim Curley would neither confirm it nor discuss specifics. He responded with generalities about the athletic department’s need to raise additional money soon:

"The bottom line is, right now, everyone around the country is looking at ways to create new revenue sources. We’ve tapped out a number of sources so far — adding a 12th game, the Big Ten Network. We’ve tried to benchmark ourselves against other schools right now. And we’re looking at creative ways to generate more revenue.

"And now’s the time we need to do it. We need to create new revenue in order to maintain our broad-based program."

 

Exact details of the plan have not yet been released by Penn State, but based on multiple accounts, these seem to be the basics:

  • The current Nittany Lion Club point system as you know it will be abolished.  Poof. (Update -- But they have to take past donations into account when figuring out who gets first shot at tickets, right?  So perhaps it won't be totally abolished after all.)
  • The new giving levels will not be in addition to the current NLC minimums for football tickets.
  • There will be a per ticket charge, which is essentially a one-year lease on your seat.  Obviously, this charge will be highest for midfield seats and decrease in cost approaching each end zone. 
  • End zone seats between the goal lines will be subject to a $100 "lease", per seat.  (Nobody knows what PSU will actually call these quasi-PSL's.  I'm going with "lease", because it's only for one season and you don't own it.)  According to Jones, seats between the goal lines and the 40's will cost $400/seat and seats between the 40's will be $600/seat.  Loosely corroborated message board chatter indicates it may be more of a gradual increase from $100 to $500:

Beaverstadium_all_medium

The color code for this: Gray (students), green (club seats), blue ($100), light green ($200), red ($300), white ($400), red ($500).  This plan is more logical and less lucrative than the "everyone between the 40's and goal lines pay $400" plan, so you can probably guess which way Penn State will lean.  Subsequent columns on this subject by the Altoona Mirror and Daily Collegian essentially parrot Jones' information, so nothing new there.  We'll have the official numbers once the mass mailing goes out to season ticket holders following the Michigan State game.

In order to accommodate all of the expected shuffling, the student section is going to be shifted away from the east stands and further into the south endzone:

The student section would move from its current range of seats between the ED section and past the tunnel to seats between the EA and WA sections. That would include upper deck seating for students sitting in sections EA and WA. Students would also be permitted to enter the stadium through Gates A and B under the new plan.

According to the tentative plan, the student section could actually increase by up to 800 tickets, prompting ridiculous quotes like this:

"I don't wanna brag, but we're some of the most knowledgeable fans in the country," [Paternoville Coordination Committee (PCC) President Alex ] Cohen said. "We're passionate, and in the end I think we really do deserve these 800 seats. There are tons of people on campus who would love to go to every Penn State football game, and to add 800 more seats is great."

...

"The athletic department, every decision they make is in the best interest of the teams, the school and the fans. I trust them," Cohen said.

They're so knowledgeable that they don't know what time the game starts, right?

Okay, first, I'll point out that 800 seats might be added to the student section in 2011.  Might.  The students are being shunted into worse seats for 2011, and (cue the irresponsible speculation!) I would not be surprised if this alleged addition to the student section never materializes.  It'll likely depend on the renewal rates of regular season ticket holders who don't want to pay the increased costs, and how many of them are moved to less desirable sections of the stadium...like the edges of the south end zone.

Second, no, no.  Students don't deserve any additional seats after this season.  And given the dregs that are on the schedule next season, not to mention what is probably a four-loss Penn State team, who thinks the student attendance will even be equal to their paltry 2009 attendance?  Anyone?  Alex has an organization to defend, and he's right to do so.  Nobody can doubt the dedication of the Paternoville kids, but that passion simply doesn't extend to the rest of the student season ticket holders.  We'll see how the students do with the ability to enter two gates next season.  Maybe that will solve everything.  I have my doubts. 

You have questions.

Why are they doing this?  Why does anyone do anything?  Because they can.  And the reality of the situation is that there are a lot of people who have been getting midfield seats for decades while making the minimum donation to the NLC.  We can debate whether that's a good thing (loyalty to longtime ticket holders and older alumni) or a bad thing (come on, $60 a game for seats on the midfield stripe?!?), but Penn State sees a very good opportunity to tap some wallets here.  And you know Penn State's love for some American cash money, especially when they can justify it by invoking the image of an adorable field hockey team crying on the shoulder of Route 22 because their 43 year old school bus broke down.

But me!  How does this affect me?  I don't know you, sorry.  But let's say you're my father, and have had four tickets in section EJ for the last 15 years.  He currently pays $100 for each seat, plus the face value of each ticket.  Because these seats are in the area between the goal lines, the cost won't change for him in 2011 if what Jones reported ends up being correct.  It would be an extra $100/seat under the color-coded diagram above. 

What if I'm one of the lucky ducklings getting away with minimum donations at the 50 yard line?  Time to pony up, sucker.  Four tickets are going to cost somewhere between $2,000 and $2,400, and that's before you even pay for the actual tickets.  These are people who have essentially been getting a free ride for premium seats -- the true, dead wood of the Nittany Lion fanbase -- and they are the people who are going to be hit the hardest:

For instance, there is currently a contribution level Penn State calls Lion Loyalty where NLC members must give between $400 and $799 in order to get four season tickets. Someone who's had seats for quite a while and has racked up NLC points over the years might have four seats between the 40 yard lines and be paying only $400 a year for the right to hold onto them.

These are the people, and others in similar situations, that the new arrangement is targeting. Season ticket holders between the 40s will all be asked to pony up $600 per ticket per year. Do the math for someone in these seats: 4x$600=$2,400 annually before you even buy the tickets themselves. Someone like this will have a substantially higher bill, hiked by $2,000 a year. If they don't want to pay, they'll have the option to move to less desirable seats.


And if I'm a young alumnus/alumna with money to spend, but currently stuck with crappy seats?  Well, this is the opportunity you've been waiting for.

The other side of the coin: Let's say someone already gives between $2,200 and $2,999 annually, what PSU calls the Honorary Coach (unfortunately, you don't get to call in plays for Joe). For this, you get the right to buy up to 10 season tickets at $55 per game. But the real reason many people give at this level is that it's the minimum to get a reserved parking spot. Some only buy four season tickets; they just want the nice spot so they don't have to park in the fields.

So if, say, someone is already paying the minimum $2,200 to get the parking spot and only takes four season tickets, they'll only have to add on an extra $200 to account for that 4x$600=$2400.

So if you're somebody who gives a big chunk of money but is stuck in row 87 of Section UUSEUUU, this is an opportunity to seriously upgrade your seats.  These are the people who are unbelievably happy with the proposed plan, and rightfully so.

Why is this happening in 2011 instead of 2010?  Well, you see, uh, there's this.

2010 Home Schedule
September 4 Youngstown State
September 18 Kent State
September 25 Temple
October 9 Illinois
October 23 Michigan
October 30 Northwestern
November 20 Michigan State


2011 Home Schedule
September 3 Indiana State
September 10 Alabama
September 24 TBA
October 8 Ohio State
October 15 Iowa
October 29 Purdue
November 12 Wisconsin

 

There's going to be outrage whenever this is formally announced, and plenty of it.  If Penn State tried to implement a re-seating plan for a slop schedule like 2010, there would also be mobs and torches and LOUD NOISES.

So this is an unconscionable money grab by a morally corrupt university, right?  Well, yes and no.  There are plenty of people who still believe that college football is about student-athletes and Success With Honor and all that stuff.  That's fine.  That's a sign of a healthy, sustainable program with proper moral bearings, and it makes us, as Penn State fans, rather proud.  Nobody feels particularly good about their favorite team being on probation, having players constantly arrested, or 18% graduation rates.  But at its heart, college football is a tremendous opportunity for universities to make tons of cash.  That's why so many coaches are fired every year, that's why so many programs are willing to play on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights.  That's why there's no playoff.  For a self-sufficient athletic department like Penn State, money is even more important.  There are only two programs that make money at Penn State -- football and men's basketball.  In a sense, it's amazing that PSU held off this long in implementing a quasi-PSL program like the one about to be rolled out.  It's going to generate millions of dollars each season.

Millions?  Millions.

So they'll stop scheduling teams like Indiana State, Eastern Illinois, and Youngstown State?  Sure, bongjockey.  They'll get right on scheduling those home-and-home series with Texas and Florida.  You're very likely to see the Parade Of Pastry continue marching through Beaver Stadium on early autumn Saturdays.  Don't think for one minute that this will lead to more aggressive scheduling.  Home games pay the bills.

How about a surprise?  I love surprises!  Well, there's this bit of information:

Penn State is giving season ticket holders the option of transferring tickets to not just relatives but anyone at all – for a one-time fee. The fees will vary by location of seats and there will be extra hoops to jump through in order to transfer the highest-priced seats.

That'll create a little flexibility, though I'm interested in what the "one-time fee" will be.  And by "extra hoops", I'm assuming "extra donations."

The verdict, your honor?  Tentatively approve, subject to a review of the full details of the plan.  It's easy to feel some pangs of sympathy for the folks near midfield who will undoubtedly be quoted by surreptitious newspaper reporters looking to stoke the fires of this story.  Wait, wait.  Can I address this?

Just because for so many years the school decided not to address the fact that people in its best seats were paying the same as people in the end zone for the "right" to watch Eastern Illinois and Coastal Carolina and Florida International and Youngstown State and, in 2011, Indiana State, doesn't mean that all those people - some now on fixed incomes and having seen their personal investments dwindle - should have to swallow this increase in one full (or is it fool?) swoop.

Talk about sheep being herded toward the end zone.

That's just blatant pandering.  You know what those people on fixed incomes and crippled 401(k)'s can do?  Either move to a more affordable part of the stadium or not buy overpriced football tickets at all.  Maybe that would be a sound financial decision. 'Till death do us part isn't being part of buying season tickets. Those people have been getting an absurdly good deal -- that can't be overstated -- on midfield seats for one of America's most storied football programs for decades.  The (basically) free ride has to end at some point.  Try getting midfield season tickets at Michigan or Ohio State.  Run those numbers and tell me that those poor PSU fans haven't been treated fairly.

You were saying?  Yeah.  Tentatively approve, pending further information.  Some fans may choose to walk away in a huff instead of ponying up the cash or moving to a different location.  That's unfortunate but it's their choice to make.  A great number of fans currently in the upper decks or end zones won't be affected at all, and will finally have an opportunity to upgrade their seats if they so choose. 

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