The decision of Kansas Athletics officials to play tit-for-tat with Kansas University students does not reflect well on the athletic bigwigs or the leadership of the university.
This past school year, the KU Student Senate voted to reduce the student fee earmarked to support the athletics department. KU athletics officials said the lower fee would amount to $350,000 in lost revenue.
To get even and apparently punish the students, athletic officials announced last week, when the vast majority of students were out of town, that prime, courtside seats that had been reserved for students in Allen Fieldhouse will be taken away and made available to well-heeled alumni and friends if they can donate thousands of dollars in addition to the cost of the tickets.
Money calls the shots, and major college athletics are governed, almost controlled by money — television money and money from the high rollers.
KU officials claim students will continue to have the same number of seats at Allen Fieldhouse, but, obviously, the seats taken away from them at courtside are sure to be replaced by seats in the upper, less attractive areas. It is a given that none of the best seats allocated by heavy financial supporters will be reallocated to students.
The fact is there are only so many seats in Allen Fieldhouse. With KU’s winning record, the demand for seats becomes more intense and, more and more, money determines whether an individual can buy a ticket and where the seat will be located.
Fewer and fewer traditional KU basketball fans — average people, parents with their children, parents of students, faculty and even students — are seen in Allen Fieldhouse because they can’t afford the extra donations required to purchase tickets to KU basketball games.
Chances are, few members of the Kansas Legislature are able to buy tickets even at face value, nor can members of the Kansas Board of Regents get into Allen Fieldhouse. These individuals need to have a good friend with an extra ticket or be invited to sit with the chancellor.
In announcing the ticket switch, Associate Athletics Director Jim Marchiony said, that “student government made it clear to us that they wanted us to find other sources of revenue other than the student athletic fee, and that is what we’ve done.” So even though the Big 12 Conference announced last month that it was sharing a record amount of revenue with its member schools — including $23 million to KU — athletic department officials decided they still needed to take seats away from students to offset a projected loss of $350,000.
We agree with the KU student body vice president who said it was “unfortunate” that Kansas Athletics still saw the need to take away some of the best student seats.
KU officials and KU Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger expected a negative reaction to the student ticket switch, but dollars are more important. It’s a business. Past contributions to the university don’t mean anything. It’s what can you pay today and how badly do you want a seat in Allen Fieldhouse.