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Rising football ticket prices don’t hurt sales

Teresa Fralish | Friday, September 17, 2004

Though the time-honored rituals of football Saturdays stand out as a special part of the Notre Dame experience, some students seem to be opting out of that tradition – by simply not purchasing football tickets.

“Definitely there’s the money issue,” said Saint Mary’s sophomore Courtney Rusnak, who did not purchase tickets last year. “I understand why the tickets are more expensive, but I also understand why Saint Mary’s girls are upset about the prices being so high.”

Notre Dame junior Anna Nussbaum won’t be attending football games this year either.

“It was a combination of factors,” said Nussbaum, who bought tickets her freshman and sophomore years. “For me personally it wasn’t a good investment.”

This year, a Notre Dame student season ticket cost $159 while Saint Mary’s students paid $212 for each season ticket – a 20 percent increase compared to four years ago, when season tickets were $114 and $173 respectively.

“Quite a few of my friends didn’t get tickets,” said Saint Mary’s sophomore Lindsey Anderson.

Last year, Anderson split a season ticket with her sister but chose not to purchase a season ticket this fall. Though she hopes to purchase a single ticket for one of the home games, Anderson cited the high cost of the ticket combined with low interest in the football team for why she didn’t go for the full set.

“I’m not much of a football fan,” she said.

The University’s general policy has always discounted Notre Dame student tickets 50 percent off the general admission price, and Saint Mary’s students receive a 33 percent discount, said Tom Nevala, assistant athletic director for business operations.

Notre Dame students who have trouble affording tickets can appeal to the Rector Fund for assistance with the cost. Saint Mary’s has no comparable program.

For its part, the University claims such ticket price hikes are necessarily to support the mission of the athletic department and contribute funds toward other University priorities.

“Most of the decisions that involve revenue-generating come back to tickets,” said Nevala.

According to Nevala, the University administration expects the athletic department, and specifically football, to generate about $12 million per year, which becomes included in Notre Dame’s overall budget.

Though Nevala said this level has remained relatively constant over the past four years, he expects it to remain high as the University continues its push to increase financial aid.

However, the athletic directors set the actual ticket price yearly.

But in addition to the net revenue expected by the University, Nevala said prices hikes have directly correlated to full funding for scholarship sports.

“That would certainly be a big factor over the last four years,” he said.

Currently, the athletic department funds 320 full tuition scholarships in the various sports programs.

“This is the first year we’re fully funding all of our sports,” Nevala said.

Ticket office manager Josh Berlo said specific statistics aren’t compiled each year on exactly what percentage of students purchase tickets, but said generally 10,000 are sold each year, plus or minus 100-200 tickets.

Nevala said the athletic department was mindful of the price increases, but didn’t expect the upward trend to change.

“We know we’re at a pretty critical juncture for football tickets,” he said.

The University hopes to find alternative sources to generate revenue, but won’t participate in widespread licensing like many other universities.

“We don’t do blatant corporate sponsorships. That’s just not Notre Dame,” Nevala said. “We have to be very creative to find other revenue sources.”

Nonetheless, Nevala noted that demand for general admission tickets remained very high given the sellout crowds in attendance week after week at Notre Dame Stadium.

“Some marketing professors would say, if your building is sold out then you should raise ticket prices,” he said.