Archive for Sunday, August 24, 2003

Pay to wait? Jets tap new revenue source

August 24, 2003

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If they haven't thought about it by now, athletic entities such as football's Green Bay Packers, Nebraska and Oklahoma universities and other popular programs such as Kansas University basketball might be pondering such a caper.

In today's dollar-driven atmosphere, you never know.

It's called paying to wait. The NFL's New York Jets recently began asking the 20,000 people on their season-ticket waiting list to pay $50 a year for the privilege of remaining there. Let's see, doesn't that figure out to a million frogskins? Just to wait and hope?

At last reports, some 1,000 Jet fans had agreed to the notion. Managment threw in some crumbs ... a team yearbook, discounts on team merchandise and access to online sales of tickets that season ticketholders want to unload. A team spokesman said it was part of a plan to make folks "feel like part of the family."

Nowhere is this more likely to ring a bell than in Green Bay, where the Packers are for many life itself in a town of about 100,000. The waiting list for tickets is well over 50,000. Heck, people up there buy Packer stock, never get a dividend, it never appreciates and it must be sold back upon death at the buying price and re-bought. But they do get to go to annual meetings.

Consider the way tickets are fought for in estates and divorces at Nebraska and Oklahoma, the latter of which boosted its stadium capacity some 8,000 to an 81,000 capacity. Some folks might leap at the chance to pay $50 to be kept on the kosher chart.

Then we turn to the incredible demand for season ducats for Jayhawk basketball. There's a long and panting waiting list, including lots of people who will pay $5,000 per seat, then buy the tickets as well, just to be among the blessed.

As for football, Mark Mangino and Co. need to win a lot of games soon to bring about anything resembling the hat-in-hand ranks for basketball. But maybe there's some other way to tap the grid entourages, like upping the fees for preferred parking spots around Memorial Stadium. Don't laugh; I have lots of correspondence for exactly that kind of shakedown.

Lots of people with season football and basketball pasteboards in good spots are getting increasingly puckered up. How soon, they wonder, before they get a call or letter informing them the tariff has risen for their viewing privileges.

Consider the people trying to be generous to KU with donations and ticket purchases and how fearful they are of the new order. Reminds me of the Ogden Nash classic about the beleaguered fellow who moaned: "I've invested, I've deposited and I've voted every fall/but every time I save a cent, the bastards take it all."

As for the rising tendency of major-college sports outfits to "spend money to make money," that philosophy might be flawed, according to recent material in USA Today.

Discussing the "sports arms race," Steve Wieberg pointed out that between 1993 and 2001 in Division 1-A football, every dollar increase in spending on football and basketball brought only a dollar in added revenue. One for one. Increased spending on other sports brought diminishing returns; roughly 25 cents in additional revenue for every additional dollar spent. Spending changes had no impact on won-loss records or, dig this, on alumni donations.

Surprise, surprise, the increased spending didn't hike the academic quality of incoming students, either. Anybody hear of Ricky Clemons and some of those other renegades around our league?

Among the 117 Division 1-A schools which play big-time football, only 6 percent made money after subtracting school and state subsidies.

Bottom line, expanded athletic programs neither hit the road to riches nor the road to financial ruin. Things stayed pretty much the same, including the wins and losses.

  • A television graphic the other night floored me. It said Bobby Layne was the only Texas University football product who ever threw more than 50 passes in the NFL. Can't be, but it is. Will Chris Simms change that?

TCU had Sammy Baugh and Davey O'Brien, SMU had Don Meredith, even Texas A & M's Gary Kubiak launched more than 50 aerials. Kansas has had John Hadl and Bobby Douglass, Missouri had Paul Christman, Kansas State Lynn Dickey and Steve Grogan, Colorado: Kordell Stewart, even Nebraska, Jerry Tagge, Baylor's Don Trull, and so on. But for Texas, with all its greats, never an NFL QB with 50-plus beyond Blond Bobby.

  • In considering the ex-Jayhawk gridders due here for the Sept. 25 Fambrough and Fans bash, I was reminded of the late Dean Nesmith, KU trainer par excellence who knew a lot of secrets and where a lot of bodies were buried.

"One of the best breaks KU ever had," Dean remarked often, always with a sigh of relief, "is that Bill Nieder (1952-53), Bobby Douglass (1966-68), John Zook (1966-68) and John Riggins (1968-70) never were here at exactly the same time together. Considering their noses for mischief, that would have been absolutely explosive!"

Just small-town Kansas boys, Lawrence, El Dorado, Larned and Centralia. "Not sure who taught 'em," Dean would say, "but they learned how to get into big-time trouble somewhere." Old Dean babysat a lot of hell-raisers in his time.

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