Ticket policy revamped to reward student loyalty

How loyal are you to the Bulls?

That is what USF Athletics will ask come fall when they implement a new online student ticket allocation system. The program will reward students who regularly attend football, basketball, baseball, softball and soccer games with first crack at men’s basketball and football tickets.

The new ticket program will be based upon a point system, in which students are awarded points for the number and types of events they attend. More points means a better opportunity to obtain tickets for high-demand sporting events.

Although the number of points for most athletic events has yet to be determined, students will receive one point for attending football and men’s basketball games and more than one point for attending other sporting events. The points a student accumulates will help determine whether or not he or she gets a ticket for a football or men’s basketball game. Points will be awarded for football and men’s basketball only if the tickets are acquired online, while points will be given for other sports upon physical arrival at the event.

“We want to reward the most passionate fans, those that are attending the most events,” Associate Director of Athletics Bill McGillis said. “And we think this kind of system will help drive some attendance and increase the student environment at baseball and soccer and softball.”

Working with ticketmaster.com, USF Athletics will allocate the 12,501 student tickets for football using an online request system that combines loyalty and chance when allocating tickets. Students will still be able to obtain tickets by walking up to the gate on game day, but only if there are student tickets left. The online system, however, has been put in place in response to the burgeoning demand for football tickets that came along with the surging popularity of the Bulls during the 2007 season.

“I think the problems that we are having with tickets are good problems, because it shows that we are growing and there is definitely more involvement and more success in our athletics program,” incoming student body president Gregory “Butters” Morgan said. “As a student body, it shows that we are moving up as a University. I’m excited for that. I’m excited for the new frontier we have here.”

Twenty-five percent of the students, who are considered most loyal based on their points, are guaranteed a ticket – while the remaining 75 percent will be entered into a lottery. The lottery will be partly determined by loyalty: The more points a student has, the more that student’s name will be put into the lottery, giving them a better chance of obtaining a ticket.

“You have to think – there are 45,000 students at this school, some have jobs,” Morgan said. “You have to think about those people. Just because they weren’t able to camp out for a 24-hour period doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be entitled to get a football ticket.”

Before the system is used, students must register online. Once registered, students can request a ticket online between Sunday and Tuesday of game week. At the end of the day Tuesday, the system no longer accepts requests for tickets. Students will be informed via their online account whether or not they have received a ticket late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. If students have received a ticket, they will then print it out and bring it to the game.

If there are more requests than there are student tickets, students won’t be able to get companion tickets.

“One of the main point of this new distribution system is that it’s different when demand exceeds supply,” McGillis said. “If demand doesn’t exceed supply, then we don’t get into the loyalty system. Everyone gets a ticket.”

If fewer than 12,501 students request tickets, the loyalty system will still be in affect, but it won’t pertain to allotting tickets. Rather, it will be used to determine in which of the three sections a student sits: below the concourse, above the concourse or in the upper bowl. Come fall, an additional 2,000 seats will be available for students at Raymond James Stadium.

The addition was made to the lower bowl seats only, bringing the total number of students in the lower section to 10,000. Another 2,501 student seats will be located in the upper deck. With the new seats, more than half of the 5,638 below-the-concourse tickets will still be available after the most loyal 25 percent of fans receive their tickets, while only 26 percent of the remaining students will have to sit in the upper deck.

To make room for these seats, Athletics has annexed what were previously seats for season ticket holders. Athletics has since notified season ticket holders that their seats are no longer available. McGillis said that most patrons were understanding when the calls were made.

“Generally they understand,” McGillis said. “Our message is that we want to enhance the environment in the stadium and the more students you have close to the field, the better the environment, the better the atmosphere is going to be. We are really excited about getting 2,000 more students there, and we know the students are going to be excited.”

Athletics is also implementing the use of wristbands to determine where students belong.

“We are ensuring that the students that deserve to be down (in the lower sections) are able to get down there,” McGillis said.

Once a student prints out his or her ticket online, he or she must obtain a wristband at the Sun Dome or other satellites that could include the Phillis P. Marshall Center.

Gaining LoyaltyStudents can earn loyalty points by attending athletic events, but they may also be able to earn points by attending events outside of athletics, McGillis said.

Other opportunities for extra points will come in the form of athletic marketing promotions.

“We will have bonus events,” McGillis said. “We may decide to give bonus points – part of it may be marketing. We may decide to give bonus points. If over the Christmas break, you attend a game (as) to increase attendance and to award the most passionate fans.”

Students will be able to see where they rank in loyalty points among other users as well as obtain prizes for reaching certain loyalty milestones. McGillis said that once students reach a certain number or hit a certain percentile of loyalty, food, clothing and other prizes will be awarded. All point-boosting events, loyalty ranking and other promotions will be posted on the Web site, which is yet to go live.

“When students register, they will then be in the communication loop,” McGillis said. “We are going to have a page on the Web site for students only, and everything we promote will be on that page.”

The development of USF’s new point system and ticket allocation program is the culmination of research into how other universities award sports tickets, including the University of Kansas, the University of Maryland, the University of West Virginia and Rutgers University, as well as input from students.

Said input came in the form of a town hall-style meeting Oct. 13, during which students voiced their opinions to a panel including McGillis, Morgan, director of ticket operations for the athletics department Erik Book, student assistant for USF Athletics Megan Latchford and SG President Garin Flowers.

“I just wanted it to be fair,” Flowers said. “Instead of having people wait outside and waste their entire day, I am glad that people have a chance to get their tickets and go about their day. I guess I wanted a fair system for everyone to get their tickets, a more efficient way.”

Morgan has also consulted with McGillis over the past few weeks to finalize the project.

“In my conversations with McGillis, there are some things that are not finalized yet, but for the most part the students will be happy with the new policy,” Morgan said. “And I think that as long as the students are happy I have accomplished my goal.”

Changes to ticket policy:

   •  Live, interactive demonstrations of the new system will be exhibited Thursday at four locations on campus, including in front of the Marshall Center and Cooper Hall.

   •  According to the Athletic Department, the system will be up and ready for registration sometime at the end of the month or at the beginning of May.

   •  Tickets for football and men’s basketball games must be acquired online.

   •  The student section in the lower bowl of Raymond James Stadium is expanding from 8,000 seats to 10,000 seats.

   •  Under the new loyalty system, the more athletic events you attend, the more points you get; the more points you get, the better chance you have of getting tickets for big games.