Student Ticket Prices in the Big Ten

Last Updated on April 28, 2011

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?

SchoolStudent Activity FeeFootball Student Ticket PriceBasketball Student Ticket PricePackagesAvailability
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$30.00N/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$119.00N/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 availableFootball 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 UniversityN/AFree with tuitionFree 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:

GAMEPrice per ticketLIMIT
Michigan State$751

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!

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  • Scott
    April 28, 2011

    Another interesting thing that goes hand in hand with this is how Purdue is one of four schools in the country that is entirely self-sufficient. Athletic department doesn’t take money from student fees, the University, or the state.

    • Kristi Dosh
      April 28, 2011

      That is interesting. I’ll be looking into that!

  • Quinn O'Reilly
    April 28, 2011

    I’m a student at the University of Minnesota. While there isn’t a fee that goes directly to athletics, every student pays $12.50 a semester as part of a “Stadium Fee” to pay for the new TCF Bank Stadium. Without that fee, ticket prices would likely have to be raised, as athletics would need to somehow raise the rest of the money.

  • illinibadger
    April 28, 2011

    What no Nebraska data? They don’t officially join the B10 until the middle of summer but should be here anyway.

    • Kristi Dosh
      April 28, 2011

      Sorry, I’m not showing teams moving conferences in my data until the moves are complete.

  • Nick
    April 28, 2011

    Your “Availability” for the University of Michigan is incorrect. Every student (including incoming freshmen) is guaranteed a football season ticket if they order one. The lottery you refer to is only for away game tickets (per

    • Kristi Dosh
      April 28, 2011

      Thank you, Nick. You’re correct.

    • Sanjay
      May 23, 2012

      Well, you’re right about insurance. It doesn’t cover chingang your mind, or having to work, etc. It’s just like your car insurance doesn’t cover painting your car green because you decided you want a different color.The exact rules (can you get a refund if you cancel, can you make changes, how much do changes cost) vary from airline to airline but more importantly by the fare basis of the ticket you buy. Look at the actual rules for each fare you consider. I’m sure you could buy a ticket today that you could cancel in October or even on the day of the flight and get a full refund. I’m also sure it wouldn’t be $588. Probably more like $1588! You could also get a ticket that you could change for a price, but could not get an outright refund. That might be the $588, or might not. The cost to change in October (or even tomorrow) would likely be between $100 and $200, PLUS any difference between the fare you paid and the best fare available at the time you make the change.You may be able to find a ticket that you just flat out changed change at all and, if so, that would be the cheapest ticket available.Flexibility is indeed available, but it has been commoditized and comes with a price tag.By the way, I can see no advantage to buying through Orbitz rather than directly from the airline. (Like Expedia, Yahoo, etc., it’s great for searching, though.)

  • George
    April 28, 2011

    All college students at Indiana can buy single game tickets with an ID. The only exception is the team they are playing for that game.

  • Jack
    April 28, 2011

    Ohio State, while also being self-sufficent also allows a student to convert their ticket to a general admission ticket by paying the price difference.

    Also the basketball ticket price is only for B1G Ten games plus one other game, all others are $16 each..

    • Kristi Dosh
      April 28, 2011

      Thanks for the additional info, Jack! I’ve added your information and some additional information I found.

  • MIke
    April 28, 2011

    Very interesting!

    A few notes on Wisconsin-

    Badger Football tickets:
    While the Student Section Lottery based around a seniority model used to exist for several years, as of a couple seasons ago it was switched over to a completely online, first come first serve sign up. The online server opens at 7:00am on a certain day and tickets are sold until gone to students with a UW Student ID#.

    Last year all 15,000 tickets completely sold out in only 14 minutes.

    Last year the Athletic split Student Section tickets into 2 “Red and White” packages to double the amount of students who could get tickets. Half the games were available in one package and the other half were available in the other package. Students can choose which package they want based on which game they want to see the most. They usually do a decent job of splitting them and making both appealing (They might put the MSU game in one and the OSU game in the other)

    This approach, however has not worked very well and the student section was regularly half empty for non-marquee games. I’m predicting a change within a year or two especially since it seemed to be an experiment anyway and since the student section used to be very good and very full for basketball in previous years for every game.

    Lastly- you are forgetting Men’s Ice Hockey which is a huge revenue sport for schools like Wisconsin and Minnesota. Huge student sections and sell-outs definitely factor into the equation at the “Hockey Schools”.

    • Kristi Dosh
      April 28, 2011

      Thanks for the additional info, Mike! Do you work for the athletics department?

      I’m saving men’s hockey for a separate post that will probably cover more than one conference. Hope you’ll check back for it in the coming weeks!

  • Adam
    April 28, 2011

    Thanks for the information, very interesting to see. Couple of points on my alma mater…

    Northwestern has a student atletic fee (minor compared to other Big Ten schools, but there nonetheless).

    (7th paragraph…)

    Additionally, Northwestern has young alumni season tickets available for both football and basketball ($125 for football and ~$100 for basketball).

  • Mike
    April 28, 2011

    Interesting study. You might want to add a couple of things to see if there are any patterns.

    1. Number of seats available to students. I don’t have the source, but I remember hearing that Wisconsin Basketball has the smallest student capacity in the Big Ten (even though it doesn’t have the smallest stadium). Low supply = High Demand/Price.

    2. Some measure of the quality of the team. Perhaps use Conference Winning Percentage, Bowl Games, or NCAA Tournament Appearances. People want to see winners and will pay more to do so.

    • Kristi Dosh
      April 29, 2011

      Good suggestions, Mike! I’m actually working on some of this already. Watch for the SEC piece on Monday. I’ll go back and update the Big Ten piece with the same data as soon as we’re done compiling it.