The Bulls are now ranked second by the Associated Press and the Bowl Championship Series polls, and the campus is in the feverish grip of football hysteria. School spirit is at an all-time high and USF is basking in the national media spotlight.
But any student who stood in line for five hours for a ticket to the UCF game knows that USF football has outgrown its system for distributing tickets.
Static lines snaking around the Sun Dome are just the tip of the problem iceberg. Johnny-come-lately Bulls fans now have the same shot at tickets as those devotees who cheered the Bulls before the hype. Meanwhile, the wristbands pose problems for students with jobs with dress codes banning bands on employee’s wrists, such as nurses or servers. Even those who spend hours waiting in line have no guarantee of a ticket. Some cut in lines and others scalp their tickets online. There were even reports that some students, after being handed a ticket to the UCF game, turned around and sold it to the miserable ticket seekers still waiting in line.
USF’s Athletic Department, which like the rest of the country was caught off guard by football team’s explosive success, has the tricky task of distributing tickets coveted as fiercely as those at historically prominent football colleges, but without the same online infrastructure or time to evolve their ticket policy.
On Monday night, Athletics held a town hall meeting to gather student input on the future of USF’s ticket policy.
As they continue to mull over ideas, the University of Maryland’s system could serve as a good model.
Like many schools, Maryland distributes tickets for men’s basketball and football with a lottery system. But at UM, there’s a twist. Students are awarded loyalty points for each game they attend. The more points they gain, the more likely they are to receive tickets during lotteries. Those who enter lotteries and win, but fail to claim tickets or attend games, get docked loyalty points. Consistent no-shows can be banned from future lotteries.
As detailed in today’s Oracle, talks to implement a similar plan are in the works at USF. Such a move is well warranted, considering loyalty-based ticketing will benefit true fans – not just the ones who come out of the woodwork when the Bulls are doing well. The most devoted fans will still get priority, but not have to neglect their classes or work responsibilities to stand in line for hours or camp out all night.
Though there’s a certain romantic air to tent towns, like those the Cameron Crazies begin building weeks before the release of Duke basketball tickets, the systems there are really relics of an old system, kept as a matter of tradition.
USF has a chance to make its own tradition – a reasonable, fair policy that gives the best fans the best chance at tickets, without requiring them to sacrifice their jobs or classes.