Indiana caught wind of its latest signal of a return to normal a few weeks ago, when it became clear that student season ticket demand would well outdistance supply for the 2012-13 season. Faced with a problem of the past, Fred Glass had to break with tradition.
For the first time ever, student season ticket sales will be capped, at 12,400 for the coming season. That number is based on an estimate put together by Mike Roberts, Indiana’s assistant athletics director for ticket operations, and others in the department.
“There were a lot of predictors out there, given that we made a pretty good jump last year with the success of the team, and we have some attractive home opponents. … It kind of came on us fairly quickly,” Glass said Thursday night. “Our best estimate is that we’ll sell around 12,400 or so, and that number gives every kid 10 games, and that seems like a pretty appropriate number.”
The reason for the cap is rooted in a recent change in how students buy their season tickets.
In the past, dating all the way up to Glass’ beginning as athletics director in 2009, students bought their season tickets at the Assembly Hall ticket office. That process allowed IU to build a final tally of purchases, from which it would determine how many games each package included. If students were owed a refund, based on the number of games paid for versus the final number received, the department would take measures to return the excess money accordingly.
But during the program’s swoon from 2008-11, when Indiana won just 28 total games and underwent a sweeping rebuild under coach Tom Crean, student season ticket sales suffered noticeably. Glass said in Crean’s first season, 2008-09, student season ticket sales reached more than 4,000, nowhere near close enough to fill the 7,800-seat allotment traditionally set aside.
So the department altered ticket-purchasing procedures, allowing students to order season tickets through the bursar’s office when they registered for classes. That move, Glass said, helped sales noticeably.
“As part of our effort to build that number back up, we moved to having the bursar bill those tickets, so that mom and dad could pay for them, basically,” Glass said. “I think that did have a positive impact as we drove that number up over the last few years.”
But using the bursar presented a problem, as demand soared in anticipation of a season that might begin with Indiana ranked No. 1 overall.
Unlike in year’s past, when Indiana could charge an initial fee and then kick money back if it was warranted, the bursar’s office can’t pool the money it receives separately, and then go through the same procedure. As Glass put it: “At some point, the bursar needs a number.”
So for the first time in its history, Indiana capped the overall number of student season ticket packages that will be sold for the coming season, settling on 12,400. The decision, Glass said, is one forced by procedure
“We didn’t cap it off as a matter of philosophy,” he said. “We have been forced to make an educated guess of what the bursar needs to charge. So based upon the trends, the knowledge of the people in the department and so forth and so on, we think we will sell more than 12,400, but probably not a ton more than 12,400. … We’ve got to work back from we’ve got to give the bursar a number, OK what number is that going to be?”
Glass said his preference would likely have been to simply let as many students buy tickets as wanted them, but for the problem of working through the bursar’s office. He also said he believes the new ticketing system is still a good one, that it has been “a great plus for the program, for the department and for the kids.”
In the past, student season ticket sales have reached more than 18,000, as they did in 1976-77 (18,353), 1980-81 (18,208), 1981-82 (18,084) and 1988-89 (18,000). The last time Indiana surpassed its 7,800-seat student allotment was 2007-08, D.J. White’s senior season, when the department sold more than 9,000 tickets overall.
Officials considered capping the total number much lower, to ensure more games per package, but Glass said he believes overselling has always been part of Indiana basketball’s student ticketing philosophy.
“That was just part of the culture,” he said, referring in part to his own experiences as an IU student. “My view has always been I want it to be more accessible than less accessible.”
The department expects to land at or near the 12,400 projection, so this year’s season ticket packages will be set at 10 games per package. Indiana will cancel and refund the order of any student who no longer wants to order season tickets, Glass said.
Last season, Indiana sold 7,633 student season ticket packages, out of that same allotment of 7,800. With ticket prices remaining static at $15 per game, if demand does in fact reach the final cap, the department stands to make approximately $142,000 more on student season tickets this season than it did last.