Officials haven't made final decisions yet; university may drop TicketReturn system
USC will undoubtedly revise its student ticketing system before the 2012 season after a crush of issues bubbled over this year, leading to hundreds of stadium evictions, several overcrowded games and students with appropriate tickets not being allowed into the lower tier of the stadium.
But what will change? Officials say they aren’t sure. A student forum is scheduled for Nov. 29 at 5:30 p.m. inside the Russell House Theatre. There, students can express any opinions they have in a style similar to the university’s fraternity summit held earlier this semester.
Privately, university officials have already conducted several smaller forums — targeting specific focus groups for more data.
“We’re collecting information right now and are nowhere near a decision,” said Jerry Brewer, USC’s associate vice president for Student Affairs. “We may not have a decision until late spring.”
But the university already knows how many students feel about student tickets, courtesy of an online survey earlier this semester and hundreds of irate — and sometimes not so irate — visits from students this year.
Students overwhelmingly do not want assigned seats, as Brewer and others proposed earlier this semester. “Festival seating” – where students can sit anywhere in the lower bowl provided they have a ticket — is preferable, they say.
Students want to pay exactly zilch for tickets, or at least the majority who answered the survey.
And they don’t want to deal with TicketReturn, USC’s current online ticketing system, which many see as unreliable and burdensome.
So among the potential changes: The university may drop the TicketReturn system, opting instead to use Ticketmaster, as the athletics department currently does. USC officials have blamed the system for several errors, including, on two occasions, not registering many students who actually attended the game.
But that new system could cost more, and USC would have to recoup those additional expenses, Brewer said.
There are discussions of charging specifically for student tickets; students currently pay an athletics fee that covers the right to compete for student tickets. But the university is an anomaly; all other schools in the Southeastern Conference, minus Vanderbilt, charge explicit fees for tickets.
“No one has to go to the football game,” Brewer said. “… I’ve had hundreds of parents say, go to a pay system and I’ll pay it. That’s what most campuses do.”
Should that plan go into action, those tickets could be distributed in season or partial season “ticket books,” currently done at the University of Georgia. That way, students can decide weekend plans in advance without worrying about whether they’ll be picked in an online lottery, Brewer said.
The upside for students with charged tickets and season books, according to Brewer: Those tickets wouldn’t be explicitly marked student tickets and could then be resold.
That’s not an option many USC leaders, including USC President Harris Pastides, are especially thrilled about. Pastides pledged earlier this year that he was firmly opposed to any effort to charge students for season tickets.
Members of the university’s board of trustees raised a slew of other concerns. Sitting among leaders from the university’s eight regional campuses at a recent meeting, the board members asked officials to study the availability to tickets at those schools. Student leaders from those campuses echoed the concerns, saying tickets are often expensive and difficult to obtain.
Brewer said the university will collect data on the regional campuses, saying “that’s not something we have studied yet.”
Mark Buyck, a member of the board of trustees from Florence, S.C., raised concerns that not enough students could attend road games. Earlier this year, USC officials offered 150 road tickets for the Georgia game, which were quickly snapped up within minutes.
A report in The Daily Gamecock later showed Georgia offers its students 1,000 road tickets when the Bulldogs play in Columbia.
That’s an athletics matter, Brewer said, but the university will attempt to offer more road tickets.
But any change can prove troublesome, he added. As the university has considered dropping TicketReturn, USC officials have dialed up every other SEC institution. The refrain from other schools, Brewer said, has been the same: You don’t want our system. It doesn’t work. We have problems, too.
Time will only tell if USC finds the solutions.