Fred Glass defends overselling of student tickets; references John Stuart Mill

My story for tomorrow’s paper.

For the first time in his career as athletic director at Indiana, Fred Glass had to figure out what to do when the demand for men’s basketball student season tickets not only surpassed the supply but overwhelmed it.

In Glass’s first four seasons as athletic director, he had the opposite problem. When he took over for Rick Greenspan in January of 2009, IU had only sold 4,800 season tickets for the 7,800-seat student section in Assembly Hall to watch the scandal-decimated team that eventually finished 6-25. That number climbed as the Hoosiers inched back toward respectability and then rocketed up to 7,600 last season when the revived Hoosiers reached the Sweet 16, but that was still short of the ceiling.

But with the glow from last season’s run still emanating from the program and some publications suggesting that the Hoosiers will be preseason No. 1 for the 2012-13 season, Indiana has already sold 1,600 more student season tickets (9,400) than there are seats available and expect to break 10,000 in the coming weeks. The athletic department announced in a press release Thursday that it would continue to sell student season tickets until 12,400 were sold and then ration the games so each student would get to see at least 10 of the 16 home games that will be played while school is in session.

Glass said he came to the decision to allow sales to pass the 7,800-threshold by consulting Indiana history and remembering his college courses on philosophy.

“One decision would be to sell out the 7,800 tickets and cap it there,” Glass said. “That way everybody who bought season tickets would go to every game, including the big games like North Carolina and so forth. That’s one philosophy. Or we could keep selling tickets so more kids would be able to get tickets even if they didn’t get a full 16-game package. I can’t tell you this was deliberate, but I was considering a class we took on utilitarianism and reading from John Stuart Mill. One of the big questions of that school of thought was whether it’s better to make fewer people really, really happy or make more people happy but slightly less happy. I say let’s make more people real happy even if we’re not going to make them ecstatic. I think the philosophy to make tickets accessible to more students and the decision to sell more tickets than we have capacity is part of that and it’s consistent with our traditions.”

Indeed, throughout Indiana’s more decorated past, the athletic department oversold student season tickets almost annually, and the rationing of games became a common and expected occurrence. Glass, a 1981 graduate of Indiana, noted that when he was a student, it was generally understood that student season ticket packages would not include the full compliment of games.

However, it hasn’t happened since 2008, and current students have never experienced such a situation. It will come as a bit of a shock to those who have already purchased season tickets that they will not have seats to all 16 games. Those students were not informed at the time that an oversell was a possibility.
Glass said that was part of the reason the department decided to publicize the over-selling now. He said he realizes there may be some backlash, but expects that most students will be understanding.

“If someone doesn’t like that and thinks they purchased their tickets under false pretenses, we will refund their money,” Glass said. “But I don’t think that’s how the majority of students will react. This is a tradition we’ve had at Indiana for a long time even if it’s not something we’ve had to do in their time here. I think it’s the right thing to do because it makes more games available to more kids.”

Students purchase their tickets through their university bursar accounts, which means they are part of the overall bill from the school that they receive each year. It also means that no student has actually paid for his tickets yet, so there should be no form of refund required. Students will be charged for games pro rata, Glass said, meaning they will be charged the typical $15 for each game they receive a ticket for.

In recent years, Glass said, the ticketing department has made an effort to assure that each student with a season ticket package was able to experience premium seating at least a few times each season by rotating each student’s seat locations. Glass said they will use a similar philosophy in determining which games each student receives tickets for. He said the department will make an effort to assure that each student gets to see a certain number of games that might be considered premium, such as the North Carolina game in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge as well as highly anticipated conference games against opponents like Ohio State, Michigan State and Purdue.

“There will be a lot of challenging permutations within that,” Glass said. “But we will make an attempt to balance out the games in terms of distribution of quality opponents.”
The overselling makes for a difficult balancing act, but Glass said that’s a good problem to have.

“It’s a great measure of the success and return of Indiana basketball,” Glass said. “… That’s the normal for me and I’m glad to have the student interest so high that it does exceed our ability to fill those orders.”

11 comments

  1. I went to IU from 81-85. The games were divided into A and B groups. With each group getting eight home games: Two on main level, two court-side (behind the basket) and four in the balconey. We paid $24 total for the eight tickets.

  2. I recall in ’93 this same thing, it was understood that was going to be the case and no one complained. You can always watch on BTN if you aren’t satisfied.

  3. The climate is warm enough in southern Indiana to play basketball in an outdoor setting well into mid-November.

    Has Fred Glass considered playing a couple early season games at Memorial? Give the students more games and fill more seats…Isn’t that how you maximize happiness and profits? Are there not plenty of facilities(soccer fields..high school fields…practice fields) the football team could use for a couple days while a temporary outdoor b-ball court is assembled/disassembled for a unique event?

    Didn’t Illinois try something similar a few years ago? Personally, I think it would be pretty cool to play a basketball game on a cool Indian summer evening under the lights. I would not be surprised to see every seat filled to watch a preseason #1 ranked Hoosier basketball team.

    I always felt dollars should have been allocated to start construction on a new basketball stadium a few years before the Crean hire. If only a crystal ball could predict future demand the reinvigorated interest a soon to be top-rated team.

    If there is one school in the nation that could fill a 25,000 seat facility for every home basketball game, it’s Indiana.

    Be inventive Mr. Glass…Neutral site(Indy) or a unique outdoor experience(an early fall game played at Memorial) are ways to not let those dollars slip through the hands our athletic department when demand is hot.

    How about a back-to-back basketball and football game combo deal at Memorial? Obviously there are some upfront costs and logistics involved, but with the numbers already nearing 10,000 for students desiring season tickets, it seem no better time to think outside the box and get those dollars in seats. I could imagine quite a caravan of families from Indy and all corners Indiana that would be more than willing to make a trip down to Bloomington to watch a combined event our two major sports programs on the rise. Hell, put on a good concert between games. Do something the students will remember for a lifetime…Maximize the happiness for all.

  4. How about the November 3rd football game scheduled at home with Iowa as the date for a back-to-back hoops and pigskin event?

    Too bad this wasn’t thought of earlier…Is it possible Calipari would have considered Memorial Stadium as a neutral site?…With the woes our football program, I guess the football stadium has more often been a “put her in reverse” site than “neutral.” Oh well, still no reason to not employ “forward” thinking for promotional opportunities, dollars, and exposure.

    Any suggestions for bands to perform at the concert between games? Maybe go retro…Steve Miller Band?

  5. This is really a non-issue. If it wasn’t the slowest sports news time of the year it wouldn’t get much space in the paper or online. As Dave and Hock point out, students from times past remember similar scenarios. I’ll add that I remember always being able to buy someone’s tix when they couldn’t use them due to study requirements, etc. And of course you can always go to Nick’s.

  6. Basketball during a sleet storm. Reminds me of barn hoops during Novembers of my youth.

  7. I would have anticipated Tom Crean to have already worked out the forecast via God on Twitter….What more proof do you need?

  8. There should be a sliding scale…Seniors get 16 games, juniors 14, sophomores 12 and freshmen 10.

    Ideally, students who frequent more IU sporting events should have higher priority of seats. It could easily be kept track of through the student ID cards.

  9. The reality is for the good games the place has been rockin but the for many of non conference games that we played against the no names there have be many unused seats as many students have not attended these games. Maybe by eliminating a few of these games from each students package, they will be more encouraged to attend and use the seats. When I went to school in the early 80’s everybody used their tickets because we only had a few game

  10. Same program was in place during my four years in Bloomington, yet I made every home game they played in all of those four years. If you wanted to watch IU play bad enough, you could get a ticket, even as a freshman in the 1976/1977 season.

    For those home games that I did not already have a ticket, I would begin preparing days in advance. I got to know a lot of girls that had bought tickets but were not fanatical about attending the games. A lot of them, especially freshman, went home on the weekends and were happy to sell their tickets. A couple of my friends were pre-med students, and they could not always attend games scheduled during the week, so they too were happy to sell their tickets. And when all else failed, I just showed up outside Assembly Hall and bought a ticket from the many people (students, alum or other fans) who had extra tickets. Some times, as a result, I had to eat Mac & Cheese for a week to make up for the cost of the ticket, but it was well worth it.

    IU basketball was one of the reasons I chose to attend IU, so I was not going to miss a home game if I could help it.

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