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Ticket distribution undergoes change

Katie Kohler and Rohan Anand | Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In response to student scalpers hawking their unused tickets for exorbitant prices on eBay and similar resale Web sites, the Notre Dame Ticket Office has discontinued the practice of exchanging unused student tickets for general admission tickets – with one exception.

Notre Dame students will now only be able to exchange their student tickets for general admission tickets for the USC game on the first weekend of fall break, but Saint Mary’s season ticket holders don’t have that option. Before, students from both schools could trade their student tickets for regular tickets before any home game.

Josh Berlo, director of ticket operations at Notre Dame, said the change resulted from abuse of the program.

“Over the last few years, we [the ticket office] have noticed increasing abuse in the ticket exchange,” he said. “Resale violations and counterfeiting of ticket booklets are scamming the fans.”

Some students, Berlo said, would resell their tickets to make a profit by selling at higher than face value.

To curb the problem, Berlo said, the ticketing office, student government and the Office of Student Affairs gathered this summer to look at the issues and “hopefully improve them for the future,” Berlo said.

After consulting with the student organizations, the Ticket Office decided to suspend the exchange program with the exception of the USC game, which takes place after fall break begins.

At the end of the season, the groups will meet again to determine if the changes were successful in curbing abuse. Berlo said that he hopes to reinstate the practice next season if the number of counterfeiting and scalping cases are reduced. The new policy has not affected the number of student tickets sold.

However, while Notre Dame students are restricted to exchanges for one game, Saint Mary’s students will not receive that option.

Karen Johnson, vice president for student affairs at Saint Mary’s, said Saint Mary’s had no input in the decision, which is entirely governed by Notre Dame.

“We are invited to participate in the purchase of the tickets, but do not have any say in their policies,” she said in an e-mail to The Observer.

Because the Ticket Office is able to trace the counterfeit tickets to the individual student, Saint Mary’s students, who Berlo said are more frequent offenders, were excluded. According to the Ticket Office, offenders face up to five years of losing ticketing privileges.

“Since there are so few tickets available to be exchanged now, with only two games, we decided to give the Notre Dame kids the first shot,” Berlo said. “But the other reason is because we found violations of the exchange were proportionally worse from Saint Mary’s. We wanted to isolate exactly where the problem was most prevalent.”

There are no financial or other advantages to the changes made by the Ticket Office, Berlo said.

“It is disappointing because we don’t enjoy taking privileges from the students,” he said.

The new policy has left some Saint Mary’s students upset with their limited ticketing options, including senior Brigid Fitzpatrick, who had planned to buy an unused ticket from a friend and exchange it for a general admission ticket for her sister, who goes to school in Chicago.

“I wanted to bring [my sister] in for a game this year, but now because of the exchange [policy], it looks like I won’t be able to do that,” she said.

Some students are angry because they were not notified of the policy until Aug. 13.

“It’s unfair because we bought the tickets first, and then they told us about the policy,” senior Courtney Kennedy said.

Other students said they thought the USC exception conflicts with the Ticket Office’s desire to minimize the online resale of tickets, as seats for the anticipated USC game are likely to sell for large sums on auction Web sites.

“So basically, students are limited to exchanging their tickets only for the most expensive game,” Siegfried senator Jim Lockwood said. “This, logically speaking, makes no sense at all. Tickets for that game are going for $2,000 each.”

Another major change in the regulation of this season’s football tickets can be seen in the absence of long lines snaking along the side of Notre Dame Stadium for extended periods of time this week.

Beginning last spring, upperclassmen were able to choose their seating groups and pay for their tickets online for the first time. They must show their student ID cards to retrieve them from the Stadium Box Office this year, speeding up a process that used to require early-morning wake ups to stand in line for the best seats.

Sophomore Fraser Desmond said the online procedure was a lot faster than his experience last fall.

“It was better than having to wait in the rain on an early Tuesday morning, like last year,” he said.

Desmond and his fellow upperclassmen might have been spared the long lines and the early morning trek to the stadium – but that was not the case for every student.

Freshmen were not able to participate in the online registration procedures last semester, and had to purchase their tickets the old way, before sunrise, and in groups of 10.

Freshman Eras Noel woke up at 5:30 a.m. and waited until the gates opened at 7 a.m. to receive his season tickets.

“I attended a summer program here so it was easy to find a group of people to sit with,” he said. “Waiting an hour and a half wasn’t so bad.”

The last football ticketing change this season limited the number of tickets that parents of students were allowed the chance to receive through the lottery. Previously, parents were given the opportunity to buy four tickets to two games, this year they can purchase two tickets to one game.

This measure was taken primarily to benefit the alumni, Berlo said.

“After the record-setting lottery last year, we took a look at the lottery and scaled back a lot of the participatory groups,” Berlo said. “It was really a way to help insure that our future graduates would have greater ticket access.”

Lockwood said he feels the reduction of parent tickets and suspension of ticket exchanges are a double-edged sword that should have been reanalyzed because it disadvantages students at two fronts: by making it harder for their non-Notre Dame friends to attend games and by limiting their parents to only one game.

“Rather than punish everybody, the school should punish those who violate the policy more vigilantly,” he said.