Monday, June 21, 2010

STEP on up!

Are you ready for the new STEP program at Penn State?  For those of us who have been loyal fans--some for decades--some even remember games BEFORE Paterno!--things are about to change.

Change isn't always for the better.

Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror has an article with quotes by Graham Spanier about this fabulous new program.
Penn State President Graham Spanier understands many fans are upset about the new, more expensive football seating program going into effect in 2011, but he contends the university had no choice but to implement the plan.
"We're overdue on it," Spanier said. "We're especially overdue at Penn State because we're one of just a few universities - you could probably count the number on your fingers - that truly operates intercollegiate athletics on a self-support basis
"This is important to us at Penn State because I don't want to be in a position where I'm taking money from academic budgets to support athletics."
So basically, the reasoning behind possibly alienating one of the most loyal fan bases in sports is because we're OVERDUE.  Seriously?!  Because Ohio State and THEM do this, we should do it too?

Granted, the self-supporting argument and not wanting to take academic money to support athletics is noble and reasonable.  But it is a smoke screen people.

FACT:  Penn State football already supports all the other programs and has done so for years--at a profit.  Extra money has been converted to upgrading facilities like Beaver Stadium, the Museum, and the Lasch building.  Look around you folks!  This is not a program that has operated at a loss before.  NOT EVEN CLOSE.
"Sometimes people criticize us for being focused on money when it comes to athletics," he said. "We have to be focused on money; it's like any other aspect of life. There has to be an income side to match the expenditure side. I assure you, we don't do anything very lavishly at Penn State. We're very working-class when it comes to what we do."
Has anyone seen the training facilities for PSU football?  Have you been in the stadium?  I'm not sure how you can justify saying things aren't done lavish, but then maybe my definition is different than Mr. Spanier's.
Cost of athletics rise [emphasis added]

Why is Penn State implementing this new plan? Simple.

As coach Joe Paterno frequently says, the school has to pay the bills.

And the bills are very expensive.
Again, taken out of context, these are very reasonable points.  But let's look at the economics a bit closer.
A fan with four seats near midfield who has been paying $400 in Nittany Lion Club dues will see that price jump to $2,400.
Let's do the math.  [(2400-400)/400] *100 = 500%.  Those are some very expensive bills at Penn State.  I would hazard to say that if PSU needs to increase funds by 500%, there are very few schools that will be able to continue competing. 
Simply put, this is ridiculous.  Yes, the program will need to generate more money.  I personally think that PSU wants to stockpile for the day when Paterno will have to be replaced, knowing that the price tag will probably be higher than what it is.    At least that sounds honest and makes some sense.  But Spanier, in discussing the next coach adds,
We're not going to pay two million or four or five million. I'm sorry, I don't care who it is. That's just something we're not going to do at Penn State. We want to pay people fair salaries.
So where, God forbid is the budget expanding 500%???  Can't they fly coach instead of first class?  We don't even provide SUV's and rental housing to recruits like some programs.  Are we going to start that as well, since we're obviously overdue???
Eventually, costs may increase.  Soooo, why not STEP up a little more slowly?  Maybe increase seats from $100 to $200 this year, and maybe every fourth year?  Or $50 per year?  The Nittany Lion Club just increased giving levels a couple of years ago!
But this is no place for rational thinking or logic.  The STEP program has been unveiled, and like it or not, we fans will have to live with it.  From the article:
"We can't afford that," said 84-year-old Jim Williamson from Bellwood, a 1946 PSU graduate and season-ticket holder since 1960. "It's just not possible. On our income, we can't do it."

This fall will be the final season, therefore, that Williamson buys his four season tickets.

"I hear a lot of people say, 'I'm not going to renew my tickets,'" Williamson said. "I know there are a lot of people waiting for tickets, but it's going to be interesting to see if they can maintain about 110,000 there for games.
Ah, yes.  The old stand-by.  The infamous waiting list.  Well let me tell you a little about that list.  If you have enough points, you can get tickets when they open up.  To get points, you donate bucks.  So that waiting list is comprised of people who haven't donated enough money to date to get off that list.  And these people are going to afford $600 per seat in addition to the actual cost of the ticket, transportation, etc?  I don't think so. You think you're standing in line for a sold out movie and when you finally get to the box office, you find out the price of a ticket is $600.  It'll come out on DVD.
I have only talked to two people who are definitely planning on renewing.  I certainly won't be getting 12 tickets anymore, as my annual donation jumps from $3000 to $10,000!!!  Sad part is I thought $3000 was too much.  Boy was I wrong.  Hope that waiting list is long.
This is not Columbus, Ohio (pop. 711,000) people.  Or Ann Arbor (pop. 114,000).  Or Madison, Wisconsin (pop. 208,000).  Or Iowa City, Iowa (pop 67,000) for that matter.  This is University Park.  State College (pop 38,000).  Small airport.  Fans travel hours to get here.  That costs money too.  And with so many games being available on TV, especially with the Big Ten Network, the impetus to shell out that kind of money and devote that much time wanes considerably.  Penn State thought they found out how enduring their fans were in 2003-4.  The fall-out of this ill-conceived plan will make a 6-4 loss to Iowa seem like a sunny day at the beach.
I could be wrong, but I think this STEP is too big a jump for most fans, and the days of a full Beaver Stadium for most games will become a thing of the past.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well written piece of material, Todd. I do believe that you have hit the nail on the head. We have given up our football season tickets because our son begins studies as a freshman at PSU this Fall. We simply can't afford tuition, books, room & board AND 4 tickets plus NLC contibutions. But is does go deeper than that. We are tired of the lame non-conference schedule.
If we are going to allow small schools to come and play at PSU, then let's invite schools like Shippensburg University or Bloomsburg University to come and play. I would much rather see our state schools use that revenue to help their programs. As they say: "charity begins at home"!