Wednesday, November 12, 2014

On Auburn Tickets and the WSJ

Hmm, is this thing still on?

For anybody who's been checking back here over the last year-plus, my apologies. I haven't had a world of time to write about Auburn (or really anything) outside of my weekly Rivals columns. I didn't see any point in maintaining this blog as as a series of "Hey, go read what I wrote somewhere else" notices, and Twitter has served me well for making contemporaneous observations.

But today, I've got a few things to note that aren't going to fit in 140 characters. Last night, a long-rumored story about allocations of Auburn football tickets was published by the Wall Street Journal. It's an interesting piece, and I recommend you read it.

While the nominal premise of the story is the difficulty of turning a profit in big-time college football, the underlying notion, that there are dozens (or hundreds!) of unsold prime seats in Jordan-Hare Stadium for any game, forget the biggest games of the year, stinks to high heaven. Everything in the lower bowl has been officially sold out to season ticket holders or visitor allotments for decades.

Even in "bad" years, the only unsold seats in that stadium should be in the upper corners of the decks, or from unsold visitor seats (the latter of which doesn't exist for any UGA or Alabama game). If somebody between the 30's dropped their tickets because of a bad year (or any other reason), all that should have caused is a ripple of people with lower priority than them moving over to take those seats. Under no circumstances should they be showing up as "unsold," especially after the season starts.

The only way there are that many tickets available between the 30's is if those seats have been removed at some point from the priority pool. That could happen when a long-time season ticket holder either stops buying, or dies and his/her priority is wiped out (that was a policy change about 10-15 years ago, up until then priority could be handed down to children). In those cases, the following year there's nobody there to say, "Hey, what happened to my seats?" and it would be possible for somebody in the ticket administration to route them elsewhere without anyone on the outside noticing.

The question becomes, who removed those tickets from the pool, and why didn't the next person in line (and the person behind them, and the person behind them, etc. to the end of the priority list) get bumped up to better seats? I feel safe in guessing that an awful lot of people who've been in the end zones or nosebleeds for decades would like that have that question answered.

And that doesn't even touch on the Athletic Director's lake-house buddy getting the option to buy 60 face-value tickets to the Oregon BCS game in 2010 (market value well into the six figures) or 118 extra Georgia and 62 extra Alabama tickets in 2013... that's way beyond the pale. A lot of people who read this jumped through a great many hoops and paid a great many dollars just to get one or two tickets to those games.

They deserve a much better explanation than, "Well shucks, this was just a good way to keep opposing fans from getting them."

1 comment:

Darthy Vader said...

Will,

If this practice has been going on throughout JJ's and TJ's tenures, even using modest figures, we are talking about what constitutes the embezzlement of millions of dollars. I am not sure what the contractual relationship is between season ticket holders and Auburn, but it is essentially a fraud on season ticket holders who expect to move up in priority if tickets are being removed from the priority pool. It just stinks - I hope the powers that be see it for what it is, punish those who have abused the system, and clean house. There is absolutely no reason hundreds of prime tickets between the 30s and in the lower bowl should remain available as some sort of good ol boy slush fund. But if that is going to be the deal, then it needs to be perfectly clear to season ticket holders that any improvement in ticket priority is simply discretionary, not guaranteed, and there also needs to be transparency for how the slush fund tickets are allocated. If you had the ability to buy big game tickets for face value the week of, I need your business model, because that acquiring a huge value for pennies on the dollar. The risk for abuse with such a framework demands better accountability and transparency, especially when the AD is inexplicably running a deficit.