Getting to the Heart of the Matter
By Paul Myerberg // Sep 14, 2011
We know the following. We know that Texas A&M allocates 3,850 tickets to visiting teams for each home game in College Station. We know that visiting teams can sell all of those tickets to its fans or return them to Texas A&M; if a team opts to retain the tickets and play the odds that each gets snapped up, the university must pay Texas A&M $80 for each ticket that goes unsold. We know that Baylor has sold less than its full allotment, and that the university sent a significant portion of its share back to Texas A&M. Is that the whole story? In the quest for balance, I asked Baylor for its side of this twisted, rancorous and off-kilter back-and-forth.
Yesterday, I came to the conclusion that Baylor’s argument about the financial burden of traveling to away games should the Big 12 disband simply didn’t have legs: Baylor doesn’t travel now, when rivals are within less than 100 miles, so whether the trip for an away conference game is 100 or 1,000 miles away shouldn’t matter — fans aren’t showing up regardless.
I cited the paucity of tickets Baylor sold for its 2011 date at Texas A&M as evidence. According to Texas A&M, Baylor has sold only 830 of its 3,850-ticket share. Is that true? Is this more, less or a similar total for Baylor in past trips to College Station?
The number of tickets sold “is nearly the same as (in) 2009,” Baylor’s last trip to A&M, said executive associate director Nick Joos. And that’s an important admission, one that provides further evidence for the consensus that Baylor cannot cite travel issues as rationale for maintaining the Big 12 in its current formation.
Or does it? According to Joos, Baylor never committed to the “entire allotment” of 3,850 tickets, instead requesting 2,000 tickets “based on historical sales” when the Bears have traveled to College Station. Said Joos: “Only one of A&M’s home opponents this year took the entire allotment (of available tickets), that being Texas.”
So Baylor only took 2,000 tickets from the start, not the entire 3,850-ticket allotment. And last Tuesday, due to demand from Texas A&M fans for season tickets, A&M asked Baylor if it had any tickets to return, said Joos. “Any tickets that we retain and don’t sell cost Baylor $80 each. Based on our sales at that point and as a courtesy to A&M, we sent 750 tickets back to them.”
And Baylor doesn’t take kindly to the fact that this information — the sale, or lack thereof, of visiting tickets — is being made public by Texas A&M.
“In nearly 30 years of work in intercollegiate athletics, this is the first time that I’ve ever seen a home team report what the visiting team sales were,” said Joos. “I think we both know what they are trying to do here,” he continued, clearly referring to the bitter debate over conference expansion between A&M, Baylor and a select few other members of the Big 12.
“So, the bottom line is that we did not return 3,000 tickets as A&M wants everyone to believe; we returned just 750 of our allotment, and the only reason we did that was as a courtesy.”
Courtesy is one thing, but that’s not the only motive behind Joos and Baylor opting to return 750 tickets to A&M. Joos cited four additional reasons:
“The ticket location at Kyle Field is beyond the goal line or high in the upper deck,” said Joos. No surprise there, and no excuse. Visiting team seats in the Big 12 — everywhere, actually — are notoriously poor. They’re poor in College Station, they’re poor in Norman, they’re poor in Eugene: they’re poor everywhere.
A second reason? “The cost of the ticket keeps many of our fans from purchasing seats over there.” Again, the cost of the ticket is not overly prohibitive; not cheap, of course, but an $80 ticket, if that’s the average price, is not going to break the bank for the wide majority of fans.
And what of the fans that opt not to purchase university seating because of the reason above — that the seats are too far off the field? Tickets get pricier the closer you get to the action, obviously. Paying more isn’t an issue for those fans, it would seem. And A&M, among others, has no problem getting fans to pay full price for an away ticket for a game against a conference opponent.
That fans buy tickets from elsewhere is a third reason why Baylor returned its allotment of tickets, according to Joos. “Many of our fans who do travel to (College Station) have access to better tickets from family, friends, work, so they don’t buy from Baylor.”
Lastly, Joos gets to the heart of the matter: “Many of our fans complain of being mistreated (at Kyle Field) and as a result, refuse to travel there.”
This is a serious accusation: true, perhaps, but an inhospitable home field and crowd is one of the hallmarks of a conference rivalry, and any complaints about such treatment should be directed in an official manner towards the Texas A&M administration. In other words, it should not be cited willy-nilly as late-breaking reasoning for a marriage gone sour.
To recap: according to Baylor, the university did not accept the entire allotment of visiting tickets but rather 2,000 — about 52 percent of the entire 3,850-ticket allocation provided by Texas A&M. And an additional 750 tickets were returned to A&M per the Aggies request.
But Baylor is not happy about A&M publicly issuing the number of tickets sold by a visiting institution. Baylor is also unhappy about the treatment its fans receive when taking in a game at College Station. Baylor isn’t happy, period, and it’s clearer now more than ever before, based on statements from both parties, that the relationship between the Bears and the Aggies is damaged beyond repair.
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