New Season Ticket Prices and Scholarship Fund

The athletic department announced the new ticket prices for the upcoming season along with a new name for the fundraising arm: Mean Green Scholarship Club.

Now what to do with all my Mean Green Club stickers?

Brett Vito of the Denton RC:

UNT officials said the Mean Green Scholarship Fund currently has just less than 1,200 members who donate a total of just under $1 million per year. UNT has approximately 4,000 season ticket-holders for football.
UNT officials acknowledged those totals rank near the bottom of Conference USA.

“To say that is low is an understatement,” Connor Meier, UNT’s assistant athletic director for development, said of UNT’s Mean Green Scholarship Fun membership total.

UNT ranked 12th out of 13 public schools in C-USA in funds brought in from ticket sales in the 2015-16 school year at $985,736, according to USA Today’s annual study of finances in college athletics. The school ranked eighth in the league in donations for the same year at $3.4 million.

There was some confusion with what exactly the Mean Green Club was and so instead of producing marketing materials that said “the Mean Green Club is the scholarship fund …” they went ahead and made the name descriptive. Everyone thinking up a name for something should take a note here. The details of the stadium seating arrangements are best found on the school’s website, but the essence is this: They changed the giving requirements to increase revenue in line with the program’s standing in the league. The CUSA West division champ is producing ticket and fundraising revenue like it was the worst in the league.

From Mean Green Sports.com:

The start of season-ticket sales is in conjunction with the introduction of the Mean Green Scholarship Fund, which is an enhanced version of the Mean Green Club that provides annual scholarship and program support for all Mean Green student-athletes and North Texas’ 16 intercollegiate athletic teams. In previous years, contributions to the former Mean Green Club were required to purchase season tickets in some areas of Apogee Stadium. This year, North Texas is implementing per-seat requirements to the Mean Green Scholarship Fund to buy season tickets in select sections of Apogee Stadium and The Super Pit.

Wren Baker quoted in Vito’s story:

Baker arrived at UNT in summer 2016 and is entering his third football season in Denton. He said he has met donors who have given gifts of more than $1 million to the athletic department and didn’t know exactly what the Mean Green Club was or what purpose it served.

“There was an awareness issue,” Baker said. “Most of our fans and donors and supporters believe in the mission of building champions and preparing leaders and supporting student-athletes. These changes will allow that story to be told with better reach and clarity.”

There has been more than a little hand-wringing about the changes. Some readers were no-doubt informed of the details via the phone calls mentioned in the DRC story. I have read more than one mention of “demand” not being “there” to justify the prices. The reality is that a price hike with a poor-performing team was never going to go well, and so this is the perfect time to do this. The demand was the greatest it has ever been in stadium history as the school set a record for average attendance, including boasting two consecutive records for 2nd-largest all-time figures in stadium history (UTEP and Army).

Vito’s story calls it bringing fairness and Wren Baker was quoted saying those exact words in the MGS release. The idea is to increase per-person donation rates by requiring a per-seat donation. Previously, one ticket-buyer could spread the donation fee among multiple seats.

For we fans — and especially super fans — rooting for the team’s success is rooting to be priced out eventually. The average fan has gotten a nice deal all things considered. Longing for a packed house and more casual interest means the problems that come with that — crowds, increased pricing, and flakey fans. The good news is that the entertainment quality has increased: a high powered offense and 9 wins.

Given the alumni’s position as stakeholders in the program’s success (donors, citizens, and general supporters) in addition to being simply customers, the principle of investment also applies: some investment is required to earn a return (‘got to spend money to make it’).

All told, this seems like a reasonable approach from the department on both fronts. The customer (paying fan) is charged a little more for a higher quality product than was available in the last decade, and the donors are asked to invest a little more in a promising venture.

If nothing else this exercise is interesting to see the revenue tables Vito posted. That was reason enough to change the way things were working.