STEP: Over 4,000 Penn State football season tickets are now available

STEP program frees up football ticketsThe Collegian
Penn State kicks off controversial STEP program that raised season ticket holder ratesPatriot-News
Remember the Penn State opener against Indiana State when the attendance was well under 100,000? What about last week against Alabama when it appeared that there was a fair amount of crimson around? There is a reason for all of that — The Nittany Lion Club “Seat Transfer and Equity Plan” (quotes added by me) that began this season.

STEP eliminated the previous model for season ticket distribution based on Nittany Lion Club points accumulated over the years which resulted in thousands of fans giving up their season tickets. Now, the level of donation is the primary means for securing season tickets.

There were several typical reactions I observed to the new plan:

  • Long-time season ticketholders bought fewer tickets so that they could save their location

  • STH’s moved locations so that they would not have to pay more
  • STH’s stopped buying tickets

Amongst the STH’s I know, super majority of them decided not to renew. Now, that’s a limited sample size and in the larger picture, 7% of season ticket holders did not renew and approximately 4,000 to 5,000 season tickets are available according to Intercollegiate Athletics. I am shocked it is only 7% and skeptical that is in direct proportion with the number of actual tickets renewed.

There are a lot of hurt feelings over STEP (which the Collegian story just pretty much missed because the reporter was too busy regurgitating the Intercollegiate Athletics side) amongst the fanbase over this and how it was put into place — it was announced in November 2009 and no phased over a few seasons like it almost certainly could have and probably should have been.

It isn’t all bad, single-game tickets are now more available as to the public (generally a good thing) which means that the visitors have a good shot at getting tickets that were not previously available. The downside of that of course is home field advantage is weakened and there is not sufficient public demand for single-game tickets to see some directional school.

Does Intercollegiate Athletics care that there are sad former STH’s, empty seats and rival fans in the stands? On a superficial level, maybe. However, even with the decline in ticket sales, STEP means that much more revenue is coming in, so that is what matters to Intercollegiate Athletics. They official reason for STEP was to keep Intercollegiate Athletics solvent moving forward, something they were not convinced they could maintain with the previous system. That is probably true, but in aggressively “clearing out the deadwood” in the prime seating areas, they do not appear to have created enough new growth which should be cause for alarm for them. Given a choice between paying significantly more money for a home schedule that includes Indiana State and Eastern Michigan, an increasingly generic gameday experience in the middle of a prolonged recession, more fans are choosing to stay home and watch games on their big HD televisions. Maybe this was inevitable, maybe Intercollegiate Athletics has not marketed well enough to “new money” to buy those prime seats, maybe HD televisions are decreasing the appeal of live sporting events (just wait until 3D becomes common). I can’t say which is correct, but I know some people feel they got a raw deal from their alma mater.

In the meantime, until Intercollegiate Athletics finds a way to find 4,000 new STH’s, expect to see lots of empty seats in September and more rival colors at big games.

UPDATE 09.14.2011: Must reads:

Penn State football comments: How the Penn State-Alabama ‘Whiteout’ turned into a ‘Red Eye’ – 50 Yard Lion, pennlive.com/Patriot-News

Beaver Stadium Has Sold Its SoulOnward State

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