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Season Ticket Prices and Minimum Donations at FBS Schools

2010 July 16
by Phil Miller

Rivals has collected football season ticket prices and minimum donations at the 120 FBS schools for the 2010 season.  The donations work like NFL personal seat licenses.  Programs realize there is “money on the table” since some fans place a higher value on attendance at home games than what it costs to get season tickets.  So schools charge a fee to capture some of that value in order to generate maximum revenue.

There’s not a lot of surprising things in there, at least to this economist.  Ohio State tops the list with a minimum donation of $1,500 – you could get a nice, new Fender Strat for that – and a ticket price of $606 for a minimum total of $2,107.  Nebraska is high on the list as is Notre Dame.

I was surprised to see Wisconsin so far at the top of the list, but it’s minimum donation amount of $1,000 allows the donor to buy multiple tickets, so that skews the Badgers’ ranking.

UW only charges students $154 for season tickets, plus a $20 donation, er, “processing fee.”  The students get poorer-quality seats, but the much-cheaper price a student has to pay relative to the average non-student indicates they use price discrimination to generate revenue.  There’s no surprise there either.

If you want long-term success in your football program, then you need a fan base willing to shell out the big bucks, and the Ohio State University has that.  So does Notre Dame, Michigan, Oklahoma, etc.

Of course having a fan base isn’t sufficient at driving a successful football program.  You also need a supportive administration and a head coach who can surround himself with good people and good players and who can coach those players up.  Bill Callahan, I’m thinking of you.

Via Wiz of Odds

3 Responses
  1. bevo permalink
    July 16, 2010

    The data is interesting but appears lacking. Many schools have moved to a point system. The location of your seats and, hence, the price, are based on the number of points you have accrued. Points generally are accrued by annual donations, amount of donations, how many tickets were purchased, purchase of bowl tickets, etc.

    Unless things have changed, almost all the Big 11 schools have gone to this system and many of the soon-to-be-ex Big 12 programs.

    Also, induced (forced?) cross subsidization are missing from the data. For example, Wisconsin use to require purchase of tickets to other sports if you wanted football tickets in a certain location (between the 30s or 20s). Oklahoma had the same tax (?) involving men’s basketball tickets.

    Finally, some schools have played with certain games. For example, the Oklahoma season ticket package does not include the annual OU-Texas game. Instead, those tickets are purchased separately. A few years ago, UNLV required anyone who wanted a ticket for the Wisconsin game had to purchase a season ticket package from UNLV. Does that not represent a tax and/or a cross subsidization?

    Those items appear missing from the Rivals table, which distorts the real cost of tickets and revenue generation.

  2. Dan permalink
    July 16, 2010

    I’ve been under the impression that athletic departments implemented the “donation” portion of ticket costs to allow supporters a tax benefit. If so, then maximizing the donation relative to the ticket price is just a clever way to take advantage of college athletics’ nonprofit status. The limit to that would come only when the IRS challenges the value received for the donation.

  3. Greg Pinelli permalink
    July 17, 2010

    I understand that this is seen as a somewhat controversial topic on Sports Economist..but my response is SO WHAT???? Alums and others can always watch these games on television if they don’t like being squeezed a bit. Football is the revenue driver for most Div 1 schools..no football revenue no Women’s Field Hockey. You can count the number of Title IX welfare sports that make money at any schools on one hand…

    It’s amazing how many non alums actually pay a bunch to go see games and even travel with the team…USC is a notable example..A large part of their retinue looks (and acts) like it just got out on parole.

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