Kudos to the AJ-C’s Bill King for asking Matt Borman, executive associate athletic director for development and executive director of the Georgia Bulldog Club, and Tim Cearly, assistant athletic director for ticket operations, what’s up with the school’s ticket distribution to the Notre Dame game. It’s a question that’s been asked here in the comments and also in several emails I received over the past few months.
Start with the basics.
First, some background: UGA is receiving 8,000 tickets to the upcoming game in South Bend. Of those, 5,300 were put on sale “to the donor base,” while the remainder go to students, faculty, staff, sponsors and family.
All of the tickets, which are priced at $170 each, have been sold, Cearly said. When there were a few hundred tickets left after the initial availability to those with a 75,000 cumulative score, the offer was widened to those with at least 67,000 points, “and that will exhaust the supply.” All those who were offered the chance were able to get tickets.
The sticking point for many, including the person who wrote King in the first place, was the way those 5,300 tickets were offered to that portion of fan base.
“What I was surprised, and frankly a little perturbed by, was that they were allowed to buy up to six tickets if they contributed 10,000 or more, four tickets if they contributed 3,000-9,999 and two tickets if they contributed 100-2,999 in 2017…”
To which, the official response is,
Cearly said that, in drafting the ticket sale, “We tried to establish benchmarks based on prior history and demand for previous games.” The offer was patterned after the one for tickets to last year’s Ole Miss road game, except ticket buyers were limited to six tickets this time instead of eight for that game, to allow for somewhat wider distribution.
“The challenge is, you want to give fans a chance [at the tickets] but you also want to reward those who give at a certain level and incentivize donations,” he said.
Ah, incentivize. Because those folks need every edge imaginable to keep the money spigot open.
The use of tickets for a big game like this to “incentivize” donations, rather than making them available to a wider group of fans, is “a sensitive topic,” Borman said, but “we’ve just got to find a way to take care of those individuals who are giving at the highest level to the Bulldog Club. We have a ton of great supporters who unfortunately can’t get tickets. But there’s got to be a line drawn somewhere.”
Could have drawn that line by limiting everyone to a maximum of two tickets to spread the wealth around that “ton of great supporters” to whom you give lip service, Matt, but we know where your priorities lie.
One other passing note from Mr. Borman…
The Bulldog Club/Hartman Fund, he noted, raises about $32 million a year to help pay the university back for student athletes’ scholarships and to fund day-to-day operation of the athletic department.
Your contribution dollars hard at work. As far as that “pay back” goes, allow me to let Andy Schwarz retort.
The same is true for the scholarships. We cannot learn much about the cost of providing a college education to an athlete from the listed price of a GIA or from the net spread between “direct institutional support” and that listed price. The difference tells us how much money the athletic department is paying the school for the scholarships, but not what the scholarships cost the school to provide.
What they cost depends a lot on the school. At schools with capped enrollment—where the dorm rooms are full, where profit margins on food and books are low, where little or no institutional financial aid is given to non-athletes—the list cost might well be close to correct. At schools with a desire to grow enrollment—where there’s still dorm space and where profit margins on food and books are healthy—the actual cost might be pennies (or at least dimes) on the dollar of listed cost…
… The numbers reported are the gross price the university charges the athletic department, not the cost. When you net out “direct institutional support” those numbers become the net price the university charges (and if that “support” is high enough, the net price might be negative).
… athletic departments are trying to walk a rhetorical tightrope. They want to hide their profits to make it easier to keep them away from other would-be claimants. They also want to avoid looking so poor that other stakeholders within academia use sports’ apparent poverty to strip them of power. Rhetoric that turns a price into a cost, and a transfer of profit into a loss of money, helps play a role in confusing things enough that the moment in the magic trick where the profit is moved from one pocket to the other gets obscured.
This sleight of hand confuses the media, who then (unknowingly) magnify and perpetuate the deception. Articles that use the label “scholarship cost” for what the schools call “athletic student aid” on their financial reporting documents are confusing price and cost, and those that don’t net out direct institutional expense are reporting a fake price at that. Schools and athletic departments have no real incentive to correct the record, and so the public is left with the perception that somehow these wildly profitable enterprises are just scraping by—all the easier to claim poverty when the workforce comes around looking for a more competitive cut.
Or when they need to parcel out scarce tickets to a premium event while trying to tiptoe around alienating a chunk of the paying fan base, evidently.