- J. Andrew Lockwood -
Senior Editor / Sports Columnist
I thought the purpose of running a sports organization was to make money. I’m not really sure now after watching the model that is Mercer University. Maybe it’s more about just having the sports themselves or maybe it’s just the fact that we can say we have Division I athletics at Mercer, but the cold hard fact is that someone has to support it. In saying this, I think our university and those in charge of marketing, promoting, and kicking up the dust about athletics have lost their direction.
If you’ve been a student here for several years, you can probably agree with me on two generalizations about the student body: (1) if you want students to show up at an event, you have to advertise and promote the event like crazy and (2) for a Division I institution, the student body is relatively small in comparison to our other in-state universities. For these two reasons, I really believe those in charge of promoting the homecoming game versus Tech (Campus Life and Mercer’s administration) and Mercer Athletics as a whole have really missed the mark, not to mention the un-capitalized opportunities they have with the rest of the basketball season.
On the first day of almost any business class, you’ll learn that when you artificially limit the quantity supplied without allowing prices to change, you will create an excess quantity demanded.. With this fundamental assumption in mind, I propose the idea of ‘Season Tickets’ for men’s basketball. Yes, it seems at first to be an outlandish and crazy idea to sell Season Tickets for a sport that has played in front of half-capacity crowds in the University Center for the past four years, but allow me to continue.
When you pay for something, you signal that it’s worth is at least the amount you exchanged for the good. With basketball being Mercer’s premiere sport on campus (and a very marketable one at that), it seems that its value to students has plummeted in recent years. Last semester, I wrote about how our university wasn’t ready to support a football program yet, financially, in terms of support, and in large part due to the attendance for all major sports on campus declining for the second year in a row.
Sure, the publicity of releasing 1000 ‘free’ student tickets and the emails nudging us to support our university are great, but it seems that in the process, the university and those organizing the homecoming event are forgetting about the loyal Mercer fans and the fact that the basketball season is five months long . Where was all of this hoopla last year (excluding the Alabama game)? Where was the sell-out crowd for the important conference home games? More importantly, where was the advertising?
There’s a reason professional sports teams have season ticket holders. The fans that value their product the most are rewarded with quality, reserved seats to all of the game for an upfront fee higher than any individual game ticket price. Mercer is a relatively small school, but there were fans that attended most (if not all) games last year. They were the fans that decided to stay on campus, rather than go home every weekend, to enjoy the game and the events offered on campus. Let’s be honest, we’re not Duke University. Or the University of Georgia for that matter. For that reason alone, we should throw away all expectations that we’re going to have 1000 people camping out all night long for ‘free’ homecoming tickets. Tickets are free to every other athletic event on campus, but now the cost is in hours spent in a line, rather than in money. And time is money.
A sentiment widely reflected by many of my fellow Mercer die-hards, it seems silly to stand in line for ‘free’ tickets when we’ve been in attendance all along the way. When you look around at those in attendance, you’ll find that many are athletes in other sports or active members of other organizations on campus. Even if I had wanted to stand in line, I couldn’t have because I had to work that morning. I’m sure that there are many dedicated Bear fans that were also unable to wait in line for several hours. So why not allow dedicated fans to show there support, their financial support. .
That’s why I propose the idea of season tickets. Give your most loyal fans (customers) a way to avoid the line by allowing them to buy a ticket package to all home games, including the homecoming game, for a really low price (for students $5-$10). In turn, sell individual game tickets $1 or $2 to students who don’t want season tickets and then charge more for the homecoming game seats that are in higher demand. It makes sense and cents. It gets rid of the disconnect between students not knowing when the games are and Mercer’s administration wondering why events aren’t more populated. It’s a win-win situation for Mercer Athletics. They’ll see an increase in revenue and a small increase in attendance in a short time while building their fan base in the long run.
But until our university decides that we actually want to make money and to put fans in seats at athletic contests, we’ll continue to see the status-quo and worse. In the meantime, if anyone wants to scalp their ‘free’ ticket, I need two for the homecoming game.
J. Andrew Lockwood is also a contributer for Mercer University's Cluster Newspaper. You can catch more of him on ASun.TV, broadcasting Mercer University's home athletic events.