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Student Ticket Prices in the Big Ten

Michigan Student Section - Taken by Flickr user grgbrwn

After looking at student fees at various universities, many of you were interested to see the relationship between student fees and student ticket prices.

The Big Ten had the least number of universities relying on student fees of any conference. I previously discussed how that might be related to football revenue. Perhaps it’s also related to ticket demand, however, with many of the Big Ten schools having strong football and men’s basketball programs.

So, when students are paying little, if anything, in student fees to the athletic department, how expensive is it to attend a game?

School Student Activity Fee Football Student Ticket Price Basketball Student Ticket Price Packages Availability
University of Illinois $2,961,577.00 $99.00 $156.00 $134 for Block I season football tickets, which includes t-shirt, kickoff party and more  
University of Iowa $525,707.00 $175.00 $75.00   If more applications received than football season tickets available, priority given to those who completed application by certain deadline.
Indiana University $23.00 $30.00 N/A $270 for dual football-basketball season package  
University of Michigan $0.00 $250.00 $99.00-$125.00   Students must be registered for at least half-time in the fall for football season tickets. For away games, there is a lottery if more applications received than tickets available.
University of Minnesota $0.00 $91.00 $131.00    
Purdue University $0.00 $119.00 N/A $250 for dual football-basketball season package  
University of Wisconsin $0.00 $174.00 $220* *$110 for half-season basketball tickets with two different 9-game packages available Football tickets are first-come, first-serve, not lottery style. Undergrads go first with 1,700 tickets held for grad students who begin purchasing two weeks later.
Ohio State University $0.00 $165.00 $132.00   Availability for football season tickets based on seniority and FT status. Basketball season tickets only include Big Ten games and opening night. Students may also order one ticket each to remaining games for $16/game. Only 1,400 student season tickets available for basketball.
Michigan State University $0.00 $136.00 $171.00   Availability for football season tickets based on seniority and FT status
Penn State University $0.00 $218.00 $59.00   Released for sale based on class (senior, junior, etc.) until sold out
Northwestern University N/A Free with tuition Free with tuition   Young alumni season tickets available for football and basketball.

Those with student fees providing revenue to the athletic department didn’t have the cheapest student tickets in the conference. Illinois did come in below the average $145 price tag on football season tickets at $99, but Iowa outpaced the average at $175. In Iowa, as in most places, it’s likely a product of demand. Last season was the first season Iowa is believed to have sold out their entire football season prior to the start of the season.

Four schools in the Big Ten charged more for basketball season tickets than football: Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan State. The average price for basketball season tickets in the conference as a whole was just $20 less than football season tickets.

I came across several other interesting options and practices when it comes to student tickets. Several universities have options for the spouse of a student to purchase a season ticket at a price higher than students but lower than the general public, but only if tickets remain after student tickets are fulfilled. Iowa lists a “student guest” ticket at the same price as a season ticket for the general public, but presumably it would allow the guest to sit in the student section. It also carries an “if available” caveat, and based on the earlier discussion on last year’s ticket sales, I would say it’s unlikely these are available.

Indiana University has “Young Alumni” football season tickets available for $30 (the same price as current students) if you’ve graduated in the last three years.

Two of the most interesting things I found, however, were via University of Michigan (although some other universities have similar practices). First was the ability to buy tickets to away games. The following chart was on Michigan’s website showing the price and number of tickets student season ticket holders could purchase for away games:

GAME Price per ticket LIMIT
Northwestern $50 2
Michigan State $75 1
Iowa $70 2
Illinois $65 None

Students at Michigan also have the ability to transfer a student ticket to a non-student. According to Michigan’s website, students can purchase a validation sticker (price not yet determined for 2011) which allows them to transfer their student ticket to a non-student.

Big Ten fans, have I missed any other unique or unusual  aspects of student tickets at your university? What are your thoughts on the numbers presented?

*Please note, I’m going to do a separate piece on schools with revenue-generating hockey programs in the coming weeks. I’ll discuss hockey ticket prices and revenue then.

Thanks to my research assistant Andy Haugan for helping with this piece!

How Much Do Big Ten Programs Rely on Alumni Contributions?

After reading about which SEC alumni have the deepest pockets, many of you Big Ten fans wondered about your own conference. I like to give the people what they want, so here it is:

  School Contributions % of Total Revenue
1 Ohio State Univ. $27,327,347.00 22%
2 Univ. of Iowa $26,753,591.00 30%
3 Michigan State Univ. $21,292,589.00 25%
4 Penn State Univ. $20,993,951.00 20%
5 Univ. of Michigan $19,297,426.00 18%
6 Univ. of Wisconsin $19,247,563.00 20%
7 Univ. of Illinois $18,835,017.00 25%
8 Indiana Univ. $18,475,498.00 27%
9 Purdue Univ. $12,732,548.00 21%
10 Univ. of Minnesota $7,320,786.00 9%

Nothing good happens to my inbox when I compare the SEC and Big Ten, but I thought I might as well since I have the numbers. The average contribution in the Big Ten is $19,227,631, while the average in the SEC is $22,910,607. Remember, the SEC had one school who showed no contributions at all and that’s included in the average. Without Mississippi State’s goose egg, the SEC’s average would be $25,201,668.

Hold up Big Ten fans..before you start emailing me with all the reasons why the SEC number might be higher, let me explain another way to look at these numbers. Many schools do not allow contributions to come through their athletic department, but instead have money flow through their booster club or athletic foundation and take a distribution for only what is needed to cover the budget. When I wrote my piece on SEC finances awhile back, one AD told me they only pull enough from their athletic foundation to cover their operating deficit. As an added wrinkle, some schools have multiple booster clubs, each specific to an individual sport, and only pull what is needed for each sport. Thus, the numbers you see may only reflect what is needed by the athletic department, not the actual value of contributions made that year.

Looking at the numbers in that light, let me point out that contributions only account for 22% of a Big Ten athletic department’s revenue on average, while the SEC uses an average of 23 percent. Also, the SEC has a high of 34% while the Big Ten tops out at 30 percent. Does that mean SEC schools require a larger amount of contributions to fund their budget because of shortfalls in other sources of revenue? Or does it mean that some SEC schools are able to spend more because they choose to take larger distributions from their booster club or athletic foundation? It’s difficult to say.

The only number that really jumps out at me is University of Minnesota. I spoke with Garry Bowman in their athletic department and he confirmed that they only pull from their athletic foundation, where all contributions are managed, what they need each year.

University of Minnesota uses contributions for a much smaller portion of their overall athletic department revenue than any school I’ve looked at in the SEC or Big Ten (aside from Mississippi State, who relied on no contributions for 2009-2010). I looked back at Minnesota’s contribution numbers from the two years prior and found even lower numbers of $3.5 for 2008-2009 and $5.1 for 2007-2008. It’s hard to say how much this can be attributed to the new stadium they opened in 2009, which would have required massive concentrated fundraising efforts for the university to fund their 52% of costs (the State paid the remainder), but it’s a safe bet this played a role in the amount of contributions the athletic department accessed in recent years. Mr. Bowman also pointed out that they didn’t begin their preferred seating plan until the 2009 season, which is a significant source of donor money for many schools.

TCF Bank Stadium at Univ. of Minnesota

Now that you’ve taken a look at the SEC and Big Ten, I have several questions for fans of teams in both conferences. First, if your school’s athletic department is only pulling what they need to cover losses from the booster club, do you think they should be pulling more? If so, for what use? Second, what percentage of total contributions that come in per year do you think the athletic department should be spending and what percentage should be saved for projects down the road?

*Note that Northwestern’s number is unavailable because as a private institution they are not subject to an open records request.

Big Ten Ticket Revenue

The Big Ten is the most interesting conference to look at when it comes to ticket revenue. Why, you might ask? Because it is the only conference that still engages in revenue sharing when it comes to gate receipts.

Yes, you heard that right. Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State do not get the full benefit of having some of the largest football stadiums in college football. You know how members of the U.S. Marine Corps say their priorities or code are, “Unit, Corps, God, Country”? When it comes to college athletics, it’s “Conference, Football, School, Athlete”.

According to the Big Ten, revenue sharing for gate receipts has been a staple of the conference since the 1950s. Back then, teams shared 50% of their gate receipts with no minimum or maximum per game.

Today, the Big Ten shares gate receipts from both football and men’s basketball. For football, schools contribute 35% of the gate receipts for all home games against conference opponents. The minimum contribution per game is $300,000 and the maximum is $1 million, making the maximum for the season $4 million. The pool is divided equally between all schools.

One important thing to note is that the gate receipt total from which the 35% is taken does not include premiums paid for suites, club seats or the like. For example, if a school requires a minimum donation in order to qualify for season tickets or a suite, that donation amount is not included, only the face value on the tickets. Similarly, if the cost of a suite is $10,000, but the face value on the ticket is only $4,000, it is the latter amount that is used for revenue sharing purposes.

Here’s what each team in the Big Ten contributed for the 2009 football season: Read the rest of this entry

How Big is the Big Ten Financially?

I recently wrote about finances in the SEC, specifically with respect to football and overall athletic department profits. Thanks to so many of you who sent me tweets and emails about it, I’ve decided to make this into a series. Next up is the Big Ten. (If you missed the first piece and want to understand the origin of these numbers and how they were calculated, check the note at the end of this piece.)

There’s an argument to be made that the SEC is the strongest conference in college football. I’m not just saying that because I’m an SEC fan, I’m saying it because they’ve won the past five national championships. Perhaps then it is no surprise that the SEC surpasses the Big Ten in each and every category when it comes to football finance: it generates more, it spends more and it posts bigger profits.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the averages for each category (the totals would be misleading because the SEC has twelve teams and the Big Ten only eleven):

  Football Revenue Football Expenses Football Profit
SEC $49,900,780.92 $19,954,052.50 $29,946,728.42
Big Ten $40,578,173.45 $17,886,754.73 $22,691,418.73

While the SEC has the Big Ten beat in terms of football, the Big Ten teams bring in larger athletic department profits in the aggregate than SEC teams.  The total profit for athletic departments in the Big Ten is $117,750,068, while the SEC, who has one more team than the Big Ten, only posts aggregate profits of $97,887,580.00.  The Big Ten edges out the SEC in terms of average profit by school as well with $10,704,551.44 versus $8,157,298.33 in the SEC. Read the rest of this entry