USF’s new ticket program looks to capitalize on FSU game

With USF pulling close to 70,000 fans for the Bulls’ last meeting with FSU, athletic director Mark Harlan looks to use this year’s meeting to the program’s advantage . ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

The last time the Florida State Seminoles came to town, USF hosted its largest crowd in program history, falling to FSU 30-17 in front of an announced crowd of 69,383. 

Since then, much has changed for the Bulls, who fell to the cellar of college football only to fight back to relevancy once again in 2015 with their first bowl appearance since 2011. 

With USF on the rise, the school is planning to cash in on another historic matchup when FSU returns to Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 24.

“When you’re in a game like this, there’s a couple of things you want to try to accomplish,” USF athletic director Mark Harlan said. “You want to maximize your revenue potential when you have a premier game like this. The other thing you want to do is really try and make your best effort to protect your brand.”

Similar to FSU’s last visit to the Bay, USF announced it will have special ticketing plans for what will likely be an in-state game against a top-25 opponent. 

To secure a seat in the lower bowl, be prepared to commit to the Bulls for the long run. 

Unlike in 2012, fans won’t be forced to buy a season ticket package to snag a lower bowl ticket, but will now have the alternative option to purchase a three-game flex package to escape the nosebleeds. 

For fans that don’t want to invest in more than the one game, upper-bowl single-game tickets start at $85 — which go one sale on May 30 — and will likely rise as availability decreases. 

The process for obtaining student tickets and the seating location will not change.

Among many of the motivating factors for setting these special ticketing deals is the overwhelming number of FSU fans in the Tampa area. 

“For all the Seminole fans throughout Central Florida, this is a great opportunity to once again see their team play in an NFL facility,” former FSU athletic director Randy Spetman said in a statement about the 2012 game. “The last time we played in Raymond James vs. USF, the atmosphere was excellent and the excitement generated among our fan base was unmatched.”

With both Bulls and FSU fans in the area likely to be highlighting this Sept. 24 game, Harlan said he didn’t foresee USF needing to open up the lower bowl to single-game ticket buyers to fill the stadium.

“We’ll look at that,” Harlan said. “Obviously, I think we’re very confident that we’re going to do well. We’ve already seen a surge in season tickets this year; we’re already well ahead of last year’s pace. So, I’m not really concerned about that. 

“I do know we’re going to monitor things very closely just like we’re going to monitor the upper-level $85 price, if that needs to go up from there, we’ll keep an eye on it. But, I’m very confident we’re going to hit our marks.”

While attendance has certainly been a problem for USF over the past three seasons, including a program-worst sub-20,000 average in 2014, Harlan said that didn’t have an impact on restricting the lower-level to multi-game packages. 

However, even though poor attendance didn’t prevent USF from creating the ticketing deals, the Bulls’ return to a bowl game certainly helped the anticipation and thus, ticket sales.

“Our team has done such a great job in putting us in the position to have, I think, a much fuller stadium not only for the Florida State game, but for the other games that we’re going to have at Raymond James (Stadium) this fall, with great opponents coming in,” Harlan said. “So, I certainly like to think their play was a big part in our decision making. 

“We’re really in a position to capitalize on the success they had last year and this is certainly one piece of that.”