For three years, I have bought The Big Ticket before the start of every fall semester. This is not because I am a football “superfan,” or I planned to attend every athletic event for the year. I simply found $175 to be a reasonable fee to alleviate my fear of missing out on Saturdays, and it gave me a sense of school pride to support Texas Athletics.
Unfortunately, I will not be purchasing The Big Ticket or supporting Texas Athletics this season, and considering Texas Athletics’ lack of detailed plans to minimize the threat of COVID-19 at sporting events, I urge UT to halt its promotional efforts and refund sales from The Big Ticket effective immediately.
On June 12, Gov. Greg Abbott explicitly warned Big 12 athletic directors not to expect permission to expand stadium capacity above 50% for the 2020-2021 football season. Yet, Texas Athletics spent the month of June ramping up Big Ticket advertising and email marketing, with a tagline promising students access to all regular-season home events for the standard price of $175.
At the current rate of communication, students should expect at least one reminder to buy The Big Ticket in their inbox each week. But what we have yet to receive is disclosure on how the threat of COVID-19 will affect The Big Ticket’s “all access” hype, and what adjustments are being made to justify the unaltered price tag.
“Our ticket office is working with our medical experts on modeling what exactly (50% capacity) could look like in terms of our fans in the various sections of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, including the student section,” said Drew Martin, executive senior associate athletics director, in an email. “The ultimate goal is to accommodate as many fans as possible while maintaining as safe of an environment as possible.”
In terms of game-day procedure, the department has not yet determined specifics. According to Martin, this continues to be a fluid discussion, but The Big Ticket will remain available and students will have the opportunity to attend all home sporting events.
However, it is not only the reality of game access that has students uneasy, but also the department’s lack of regard for the impact this could have on athletes and students.
“I think UT is absolutely wrong for trying to sell The Big Ticket, especially at full price in a time like this,” business junior Patrick Chukwurah said in a message. “The fact that they want to fill capacity up to 50% when classes on campus are supposed to be full to only 40% makes no sense.”
With 13 Texas football players diagnosed with COVID-19 following the reinstatement of voluntary practice on June 8 and infections climbing across the state, some students are questioning the department’s leadership and responsibility.
“These players aren’t getting paid, and they are putting their health on the line for a system that continually exploits and profits off them,” Chukwurah said.
Bottom line, if UT can’t keep its athletes safe, it shouldn’t be trusted to keep its fans safe. Selling The Big Ticket at full price with this degree of ambiguity goes beyond inappropriate and misguided. It is intentionally misleading students and it is stealing.
Refusing to refund sales from The Big Ticket would be a deliberate abuse of power for financial gain by the University. Assuming fans are permitted at DKR this year, tickets should be sold on a game-by-game basis following preliminary advice from health officials.
I have faith in a University that prioritizes student health and safety over profit and progress, and adaptability over tradition. I implore UT and Texas Athletics to remedy this mistake and set an example of honesty and circumspection.
Daniel is a biomedical engineering and French senior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.