Everyone knows college students are broke. It’s basically a universal constant. Every dollar not spent Thursday night ends up going to something completely unnecessary like a 50-pound bag of rice. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything, that’s a purely hypothetical example. College administrators know this better than anyone, probably because they’re the ones taking all the money. So why do most schools make students buy their own tickets to football games, basketball games, etc.? The answer is obviously “money”, but it’s not the slam dunk money-printer most think it is. Sure, there are tons of students who will pay for football tickets. But despite how it looks at most schools, there are other sports besides football. Time and time again, these are the sports that suffer from this outdated model. I say outdated because a solution is already out there. Enter, the loyalty points system.
One of the best things about going to South Carolina was that tickets to every sporting event were absolutely free. It didn’t matter if it was a football game against Alabama or a volleyball game against The Colorado School of Mines, the price was the same: $0. As an SEC school, football tickets were the only ones that were ever in danger of selling out, so the school decided to distribute them based on loyalty points. And how did you get these points, you might ask? Mainly, by going to games. Any games, in any sport. Some were weighted differently, but typically you received one point for attending any South Carolina sporting event. With football being one of the earliest sports played in the school year, this incentivized freshman, who obviously start with no points, to go to as many games as possible. The result: raucous environments at home games for every single Fall sport. Soccer was the primary beneficiary, and The Graveyard was rocking night in and night out. The most recent numbers don’t lie either. In 2018, the women’s team ranked 2nd nationally in average attendance. The men’s team, who has a single Final Four appearance in their 38-year history, finished 3rd nationally the year before. Men’s soccer is so unpopular down here that the SEC doesn’t even sponsor it, so they have to play in Conference USA. That didn’t stop 2,900 people spending their random weeknights at Stone Stadium. Not only did we not have to pay for tickets, but the soccer players got a level of support incredibly rare for a southern soccer team. Everybody came out a winner.
I don’t blame most schools for charging students for tickets. A healthy bottom line is a lot easier to measure than psychic benefits like student support and school spirit. But the model for success is out there, and it’s been proven pretty convincingly. So colleges, just this once please think about something other than profit and stop making students pay for tickets.