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Scalping penalties increase

Matt Bramanti | Friday, September 19, 2003

As demand for Notre Dame football tickets rises, University officials find themselves in a dilemma: how can the University encourage ticket exchange while discouraging scalping?

The present solution lies in more stringent anti-scalping regulations and tougher enforcement, combined with a fan-friendly ticket exchange program, said Jim Fraleigh, assistant athletic director in charge of ticket operations.

Fraleigh said the move came as alumni were becoming more and more frustrated with the lack of available tickets.

“There has been a very, very strong push from the alumni board and the alumni senate for the University to take a strong stand [against scalping],” Fraleigh said. “We certainly agreed with that.”

Each summer, alumni who contribute at least $100 to Notre Dame may request tickets to any Irish football game. For each home game, the athletic department reserves 33,000 of the stadium’s 80,795 seats for alumni, but that quota comes nowhere near meeting the demand. Alumni requested over 100,000 combined tickets for the games against Florida State and USC.

Requests are filled by holding a lottery to determine who may purchase tickets. Fraleigh said that over $5 million in ticket requests were turned away for this season’s games. “We cannot satisfy demand from our alumni population,” he said.

The scarcity gets even worse when ticket holders sell their tickets to opposing fans, either in person, via brokers or on Internet auction sites like eBay.

The new rules allow for harsher punishments of people who sell their tickets at a profit.

Under the new rules, Notre Dame alumni, faculty and staff who sell their tickets for more than face value can be subject to severe consequences. Selling tickets to a single game carries a two-year suspension of ticket privileges to all Notre Dame athletic events. The sale of season tickets can leave the violator ticketless for at least five years. Repeat or egregious violators face the permanent revocation of their ticket privileges.

Staff members in Fraleigh’s office routinely search Web sites and ticket brokerages to find violators, buy tickets, and mete out sanctions on offenders.

“The ticket office is checking Internet sites every day,” Fraleigh said. “We’ve caught 80 people on eBay alone,” he said, adding that the stings netted “several hundred tickets.”

His office, in conjunction with Notre Dame Security Police, has also busted scalpers on game days.

“We have people going through parking lots on football Saturdays,” Fraleigh said. “We’ve bought tickets and we’ve confiscated tickets.”

Plainclothes undercover officers, posing as fans, have been buying tickets from scalpers, then reporting them to the athletic department. The ticket office maintains records of who holds each season ticket in the stadium, making enforcement relatively easy, Fraleigh said.

“We know all the owners by section, row and seat number.”

The crackdown appears to be working, as fewer and fewer tickets are available from brokers, scalpers and auction websites.

Alumni association executive director Chuck Lennon said that the policies are intended to keep tickets primarily in the hands of those affiliated with Notre Dame. He said that in conjunction with the new restrictions, the alumni association has instituted an exchange system where ticket holders may sell their tickets at face value.

“If you’re going to enforce this rule, you’ve got to have a mechanism to take care of [demand],” Lennon said. “We’ve had a good response so far.”

At Gate 2 of the Joyce Center on football Saturdays, ticket holders may sell their tickets for $48, while buyers pay $50. The $2 premium allows the association to recover its costs in administering the program, Lennon said. Alumni get first crack at the tickets from 8 to 10 a.m., and any remaining tickets go on sale to the general public from 10 a.m. until game time.

Lennon characterized the ticket exchange as a way to help meet demand for seats while protecting the integrity of the Irish home field advantage.

“Our goal to assist the Notre Dame family is paramount,” Lennon said.