CLEMSON — A couple of years of consternation on the touchy topic of Clemson students paying to attend Clemson home football games could soon reach a boiling point.
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich proposed plans Tuesday morning during the board of trustees’ quarterly meetings to initiate a ticket purchase plan the university hopes to raise between $1.8 million and $2 million annually for the athletic department.
Historically, Clemson students have always been admitted to Memorial Stadium free of charge. In recent years before an online system was instituted in 2015, students would line up — and even camp out in some instances — to be awarded tickets on a week-to-week basis, first rewarding IPTAY members (annual cost: $40) and then giving tickets in order to seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen.
Radakovich’s new proposal (following failed previous attempts to initiate student fees aiding the athletic department budget): sell 9,000 tickets in the lower deck student section and The Hill, at $225 per season per student.
“They would get a season ticket and it would be theirs and they would know they’re going to the game and there would be no weekly sign-up,” Radakovich told a pool of reporters. “We’re looking to move forward with that.”
However, a number of students have balked at Radakovich’s idea — one even launched an online petition attempting to block the plan — including newly elected student body president Joey Wilson, a junior from Duncan majoring in bioengineering.
“The plan that was presented to us would be detrimental to the spirit of Clemson and the spirit of being a student here, and we’ve been opposed to it for 2½ years,” Wilson told The Post and Courier in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “A couple years ago, Dan tried to implement an athletics fee here at Clemson, which was something student government opposed, and now it’s been transformed, basically, into paying for the lower deck and not having to pay for the upper deck.
“To me, that’s basically segregating the stadium based on socioeconomic status among students, and that’s not OK.”
Wilson said student leaders were caught off-guard by the athletic department’s new plans in a Monday meeting with Radakovich. There is another meeting scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, and a resolution could come down as soon as next week.
“To not have the ability to attend football games and have the same experience as everyone else — which includes being in the lower deck sometimes — because you can’t afford $225 a year, I think it’s ludicrous, and that’s what this is suggesting,” Wilson said.
“From our side, we want to continue discussions, and really hope this policy will not be put in place. We want to have our voice heard about this, and we want to find alternative ways we can support athletics as an institution without burdening students. This policy would be detrimental to students and really be divisive to the Clemson family at a time where we’re starting to become more unified.”
Radakovich said there is “no specific approval process” via the board of trustees, though there would need to be some form of understanding between the student body, athletic department and president’s office.
“We’re trying to make sure everybody understands what we’re doing, we’re doing it, what are the benefits of it for the students, and then we’ll move ahead,” Radakovich said, who added the issue must be settled before the spring semester ends in a few weeks.
“We’ve had meetings with the students, and it’s no great secret, they don’t want to do that. It’s been part of Clemson for an awful long time.”
Radakovich pointed out Clemson is the only school within the ACC, Big 12 or SEC that does not either take an annual athletics fee from every undergraduate student or charge ticket prices for football or basketball games. He also announced plans to consolidate the 3,300 upper-deck student seats into the easternmost portion of those sections, after they’ve been sprinkled throughout the upper deck in years past.
“If students were not able to pay those dollars, they certainly can still come into games,” Radakovich said. “But there’s value in the lower deck, there’s value in the Hill. We’re just looking to gather that with our students.”
Of Clemson being in the minority of schools not charging students for football admission, Wilson responded, “Certainly we understand, we want to be realistic. But we’ve operated forever without having to charge these fees.”
Revenues generated from would-be student ticket prices would go toward the athletic department’s operations budget.