The USF student ticket policy has undergone a major overhaul this semester and continues to evolve in the face of the largest demand the fledging football program has ever created.
The fluid policy has drawn both praise and criticism from students, but officials say it’s necessary to address the ever-changing problems faced by a program dealing with some welcomed growing pains.
“These are beautiful problems to have,” said Senior Associate Athletic Director Bill McGillis. “We are blessed to have so much interest in what we do.”
Internet ticketing, a lottery system, merit-based preferences and doing away with companion tickets are now all on the table as possible solutions for increased attention, McGillis said.
“Everything is on the table,” he said. “We will not make any drastic changes without student input.”
The next step for student ticket may be an on-line system, McGillis said. There are plans underway to test the system and it may be used for student basketball tickets in the spring.
Also under consideration is a way to give football ticket priority to students who attend sporting events year-round and eliminating companion tickets, McGillis said.
McGillis said his biggest concern is to figure out a system that is fair but rewards the students who are the most passionate about sports.
Students attending the semester’s first football game against 1-AA Elon were given access to the Raymond James Stadium by simply scanning their student IDs before entering the field.
Sunday, however, around 5,000 students were given access to the Sun Dome while thousands more formed a line which wrapped around the building, all waiting for hours for a ticket
“It took a little longer than we anticipated,” criminology senior Mike DeNunzio said. “It’s a work in progress at least the school is doing something.”
The wristband system first made its debut in late September when the Bulls faced North Carolina.
In response to a growing demand, officials decided to distribute student tickets and sell companion seats early for the first time.
The wristbands were employed as a means of making it harder for students to scalp tickets they had received for free. Officials didn’t anticipate that the student section would sell out but saw the game as an opportunity to prepare for the forthcoming match against then-No. 5 West Virginia.
The match was hyped as potentially the biggest game in USF’s eleven-season history and the fans turned out in droves. Students camped out overnight to stake their claim to a seat in the newly expanded student section, now the biggest in the Big East Conference with 12,501 seats.
This marked the first time USF sold out Raymond James Stadium, and with the capacity crowd came a number of logistical dilemmas.
Raymond James, which is run by the Tampa Sports Authority, had never dealt with a general-admission student crowd of this size and worked with USF Athletics to find a solution.
Athletics was charged with coordinating officials from the Tampa Police Department, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the State Troopers and the University Police Department to work with security provided by TSA.
Students were dissuaded from camping out Saturday night and tickets were distributed Sunday to avoid conflicting with class schedules, McGillis said. People were allowed into the Sun Dome to escape possible storms and to keep them in seats, which would make it harder for students to cut to the front of the line.
Ultimately, around 8,600 tickets were distributed Sunday, and about 1,500 remain after the others were made available at each of USF’s satellite campuses.
The ticketing offices will be open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday or until the last ticket has been distributed.
Joshua Neiderer can be reached at (813) 974-5190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.