UT athletics should strongly consider lowering student ticket prices

John Daywalt

Last month I wrote a column titled, “For student athletic tickets, we want options!” which elaborated on the lack of student options when it comes to purchasing athletic tickets.

Because I received so much support from fellow students since the publishing of that column, I decided to delve deeper into the UT student ticket dilemma. I believe, along with many students, that UT athletic events should be for students to enjoy first and to make a profit secondly.

The University should focus on getting more students to attend athletic events while we are still students. As former Longhorns are some of the biggest supporters of UT athletics, we are a major part of the future revenue source for UT athletics. Students enjoying athletic events now may result in more of us purchasing tickets after we leave the 40 Acres. Common sense would say that if a student cannot afford to attend a particular athletic event as a student at UT, that student will probably not spend even more money to attend at the non-student pricing.

I submitted a Texas Public Information Act request to the University to look into more specifics of ticket revenue. The results provided have been placed into the infographic below. These results show that student tickets account for less than six percent of total annual ticket revenue spread across all sports over the past four years.

Knowing that student tickets normally account for less than 6 percent of total annual ticket revenue, it is reasonably safe to assume that the athletics department does not absolutely need to charge students for tickets. The athletics department simply must do so to limit student demand.

This, in turn, only allows students who can afford to pay this arbitrary amount the department deems necessary. Without charging at all, there would simply be too many students attending athletic events. There are many universities across the U.S. that would love to have too many students attending athletic events, but this is obviously not a concern of the UT athletics department. The athletics department released a report in 2013 that provides a financial overview of the department. If the department had provided free tickets to the same number of students that purchased tickets in each of these years, the department would have maintained more than a $30 million balance each year after expenses; this excludes 2013 because this report only covers up through 2012.

The new Big Ticket costs students $195 per year compared to the $80 in previous years under the Longhorn All-Sports Package. The Big Ticket includes reserved seating at each of the home football games and access to all other home athletic events throughout the school year. The former $80 system did not offer reserved football tickets without an additional cost above the $80, but still provided access to all other home athletic events throughout the year. Last month when I spoke with Steve Hank, senior associate athletic director and chief revenue officer, he informed me if students attend every athletic event possible with the Big Ticket, the cost averages out to less than $2 per event. I would still argue it is highly unreasonable nor realistic to attend more than 100 athletic events in a single year. This also raises this issue for students who do not return to UT after the fall semester. There are students like myself who intend to graduate in December. Unfortunately, we are still forced to pay for a full year of events although we are not eligible to use the Big Ticket once we are no longer students. In previous years, there was an option to pay only $40 for a semester.

A major concern is that the athletic department has a monopoly over the ticket system and pricing. As far as I am aware there is no oversight as to how the athletic department sets pricing. In each of the four years of data I was provided, student ticket purchases have declined. Not only did student ticket sales decline, but so did non-student season tickets as well as total ticket revenue. Simple economics would show that lowering prices instead of raising them would incentivize more students to partake in these athletic events. Instead, the athletic department has raised prices drastically which will more than likely lower the number of students purchasing the Big Ticket.

The athletic department should strongly consider lowering costs to get more of us future Texas Exes back on campus in the future.

Daywalt is a senior columnist. Follow Daywalt on Twitter @JohnDaywalt.