Loyal fans get royal ticket treatment

Gopher Points is designed to give the most loyal football fans season ticket priority.

Karlee Weinmann

Donations and loyalty to the Gopher cause will count for more than a show of pride when it comes to getting season tickets at TCF Bank Stadium.

on the web

For the Gopher Points Web site, go to https://onestop2.umn.edu/ppoints/ enterPpoints.do?page=public

Longtime season ticket-holders and big-time benefactors to the stadium project will earn the most Gopher Points – a program designed for season-ticket purchase priority for the football team in its much-anticipated new home.

But student season tickets won’t count until the upcoming season. Only publicly purchased tickets could be tracked until now, Associate Athletics Director Tom Wistrcill said, in part because of disorganized data from student purchases at the University Bookstore.

That means a three-year student season ticket-holder who will buy them again in 2008 will only receive 100 Gopher Points, the equivalent of one year’s season-ticket purchase, despite four consecutive years of game-going.

“But moving forward, we’ll be able to track everyone, including students,” Wistrcill said. Scanning tickets at the new facility will streamline the process.

Journalism senior Joe Nelson hasn’t missed a game as a student, and plans to buy the student ticket package again this fall.

If he sticks around the area after he graduates, he said he might buy public season tickets. But the 100-point credit for his dedication so far doesn’t seem fair, Nelson said.

“It’s not very fair because college football is all about the students and they should be rewarded for that loyalty to the team,” he said. “It’s kind of disrespectful for people supporting in recent years and who have been part of Gopher football in recent years.”

Except for the 100 points each earned by purchasing tickets for the Gopher’s curtain-call season at the Metrodome and graduating, students have few other options to accumulate as many points as longstanding, big-spending Gopher fans.

A $500 donation to the stadium fund means 25 points, the same as a $550 lifetime membership to the University of Minnesota Alumni Association.

The UMAA has been a vocal backer of the back-to-campus stadium campaign and members were included in athletics department research of the points system.

The athletics department-UMAA partnership might serve students well, said Bruce Rader, UMAA senior director of marketing.

“It’s a great way to get points, and a lifetime connection to the University,” he said. About 14,000 alumni already have memberships, which count toward Gopher Points – double points for couples with joint memberships.

But paying in to earn Gopher Points isn’t necessarily a reasonable option for young fans, Nelson said, especially with ever-rising tuition costs.

“I think we’ve given a lot more money to school than anyone else in the last four years,” he said. “I don’t see the award for giving any more than we already have.”

Despite students’ concern, athletics officials are bracing for a different group’s reaction to Gopher Points.

Under the new system, preferred seating – non-bench chair seats within the 20-yardlines – will require donations beyond the base seat price of $250.

The mandated gifts range from $100 to $500 per seat, per year. That cost isn’t absorbed in the ticket price because schools share ticket revenue, and the donations will go toward Gophers programs.

The donations could generate about $2.5 million for athletics scholarships.

“It’s a highly emotional issue,” Associate Athletics Director David Crum said, for longtime ticket-holders who’ll have to shell out the extra money to keep the same seats they’ve had.

But, officials say, loyalty still counts.

For those not willing to pay more than face value, seats goal line to goal line – including those not in the preferred seating section – will also have chair backs.

“We want to minimize how many we lose by all means, because they’ve been very loyal,” Wistrcill said.

Point systems and donations are the culture of today’s ticket sales, Crum said.

Eight other Big Ten schools reward letter-winners, four reward graduates and three reward alumni association membership. Only Minnesota and Penn State systems reward all three.

Nine thousand current season ticket-holders can expect mailed Gopher Points guides with information and their personal point totals in coming weeks.

The athletics department will have a phone bank to take calls in addition to a Gopher Points Web site.

Individuals will have until Dec. 31 to log donations and solidify point totals before the ticket-buying queue is finalized.

Men’s basketball and hockey teams are also in talks to implement similar points systems, but at this point, it’s all conversation.

“There are no plans for (those teams’) 2008 seasons,” Wistrcill said.