It used to be you could hardly give away Kansas University football tickets. But they aren't free anymore - even for babies.
That's a fact the young Foust family of Lawrence learned the hard way.
Owen and Lisa Foust bundled up their 3-month-old baby, Kate, on Saturday and headed to the Jayhawks' season opener. When they presented two tickets at the gate, they were told Kate, who was strapped to her father's chest, needed a ticket, too.
To get into the game, they had to get out of line and buy another $35 ticket.
"I just thought it was pretty tacky," Owen Foust said. "It's just a grab for money."
Babies may fly on some airplanes or attend a Kansas City Chiefs game for no cost, but Memorial Stadium's gates no longer swing freely for KU's tiniest football fans.
"Everybody needs a ticket regardless of age," KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said. "The very small children come with backpacks and bottles and toys. ... We've received numerous complaints over the years from people who are sitting next to those people - enough for us to know that even those sized children need the space."
Marchiony said KU started enforcing the babies-pay policy three or four years ago, though he couldn't recall the precise date. He said the move was spurred by complaints from fans that children were invading the space of paying customers. And he said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has recommended that organizations require tickets for large events as a way to keep track of numbers.
"We're not against paying something," Lisa Foust said. "We were surprised that it had to be a full-priced ticket."
The Fousts, both KU alumni, had the money to pay for Kate's ticket, but maybe other Lawrence families aren't so fortunate, Owen Foust said.
"This is supposed to be a family-friendly environment," he said. "I don't think that policy promotes that (environment) much."
Sports teams have varying policies regarding pint-sized fans.
The Kansas City Chiefs waive the admittance price for children under 3.
"It's a question of the actual seat," Chiefs Public Relations Director Bob Moore said. "If there's no one sitting in the seat, then there's no reason to sell the seat."
Moore said he believed the Chiefs' policy was likely in line with other professional football team rules.
At the University of Missouri-Columbia, kids under age 2 can watch Coach Gary Pinkel and the Tigers for free. Kansas State University has the same policy, permitting children under age 2 for free. And Iowa State University also allows babies age 1 or younger at no cost into football games.
More on the policy
"We just felt like a 1-year-old doesn't take up that much room," said Matt Johnson, director of ticket operations at Iowa State. "We get calls all the time saying: 'Thanks for not making our 2-month-old pay.'"
But wee Husker fans don't get special treatment.
"Our stadium is sold out on a season-ticket basis with a long waiting list," said Keith Mann, media relations director at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "Everyone has to have a ticket."
Ditto for Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Texas-Austin.
Making exceptions for babies "leads to too much decision-making at the gate," said Kenny Mossman, athletic department spokesman for the University of Oklahoma.
UT women's athletic director Christine Plonsky said even though babies don't take a seat, they're still taking up space in a crowded stadium, and safety is an issue.
"The ruler here of stadium and game management is our fire marshal," she said.
Marchiony said families can take advantage of KU's family plan season ticket package, which costs $300 for two adults and two students.
The Fousts said they will return to games, but whether Kate stays home with a baby-sitter or the family opts to watch from the hill or whether they pay for Kate's ticket will be decided on a game-by-game basis.
"Kate will probably go to some games," Owen Foust said. "And we certainly want Kate to be a KU graduate someday."