Priority points policy helps and hinders

Illustration by Rachel Anderson

While many fans bought tickets at the gate for Saturday’s packed men’s basketball game against Franklin, season ticket holders have been dealing with a new way of getting for Butler University athletic event tickets.

The Collegian reported last week in “Seat not saved” that the priority points system was put in place four years ago by the Butler University athletics department to deal with the distribution of season tickets for men’s basketball games.

“We had no set system for handling renewed tickets and people who wanted upgrades,” Associate Athletic Director Mike Freeman said. “Basically every NCAA Division I school runs [something like] this.”

The program takes into account a season ticket holder’s tenure at Butler as well as the amount of money he or she has donated to the athletics department in recent years.

“We are trying to drive giving to the athletics department,” Freeman said. “We have a system in place to reward folks who are helping us out.”

The points program also has been utilized for deciding who gets seats at Butler’s neutral site games as well as for season parking passes. Such a program could also be used to determine seat allocation for backed seating at future football games, Freeman said.

While the exact numbers behind the revenue increase the athletics department has seen because of the program are not public, Freeman said the Bulldog Club has seen a rise in membership since the introduction of the points program.

The Bulldog Club donates funds, in the form of annual gifts from members, to Butler athletics for things like uniforms, equipment and team travel.

Freeman said since the introduction of the Bulldog Club points program, the percentage of season ticket holders has increased 20 to 60 percent. He said of the 2,800 club members last year, only 25 percent were season ticket holders.

Student-athletes are the big winners with the system in place said Matt Harris, manager of fan development.

“We can show fans how we’re putting money back into the student-athletes through renovations,” Harris said.

Some recent upgrades for Butler athletics include an improved indoor hitting facility for the baseball team, three new tennis courts, remodeled softball facilities and various additions to the Butler Bowl.

Despite promises that the points program is meant to help student-athletes, some longtime ticket holders have been upset with the system.

Brenda Taylor, a 1961 Butler graduate, currently sits three rows behind the players’ bench and has not been asked to move. However, Taylor said she was initially “quite upset” with certain aspects of the program.

“My main objection was that [the athletics department] didn’t have records of me being a season ticket holder since 1961,” Taylor said.
Taylor, who is retired, said that she cannot afford to increase her donations to the athletics department per its request.

“I gave $150 in May, and they said that was for last year,” Taylor said. “I’m OK with [donating] $50 here or there, but I think they want more.”

Former professor Art Levin was also recently asked to increase his donation to the athletics department to retain the seats he had used for more than 40 years. Levin has since decided not to attend basketball games this season unless he “can get tickets from a scalper.”

Not all season ticket holders feel the same about the system, however.

T.J. Perry, a former Butler basketball player and current season ticket holder, said he understands the need for such a system.

“We’ll need to continue doing these sorts of things moving forward,” Perry said. “I’d be more upset if [Athletic Director Barry Collier] didn’t do anything. It’s good that he’s doing things to raise funds for the university and, long term, I understand it.”

At the same time, Perry also said he feels the athletics department needs to be careful with the system.

“You need to preserve the people who got you to where you are now,” Perry said.

Butler alumnus Brad Hamann is in charge of a task force that is currently reviewing the program. According to an email from Hamann, the task force discovered that the athletics department did not survey the season ticket holder base on the system that is currently in place.

“I have been contacted by a number of young alumni who have voiced a number of concerns,” Hamann said.

Despite opposition, Freeman said he does not feel there is trouble with the system.

“Inherently it’s not going to work for everyone, but it works for most season ticket holders,” Freeman said.

Harris said he points out the system’s positive impact on athletics to opponents.

“The biggest thing we encounter is trying to show fans why we do this and how it benefits student-athletes,” Harris said.

While Harris said the system has benefited the athletics department, he said the department looks at peer schools such as Drake and Valparaiso to see how the system could be improved.

“We will always look at the way we do things and try to do them better,” Harris said. “Regardless, the response is overwhelmingly positive.”

Whether the program undergoes future changes or not, it appears that it is here to stay.

“[The program] has aided what we’ve been able to do for the last five years, and I feel it can have the same effect for the next five,” Freeman said.

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