CLEMSON — A matter of weeks after Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich told the media the Board of Trustees had instructed him to fix an attendance problem when it comes to Clemson students and their student-tickets during football season, Clemson has found the solution that it thinks will be the best remedy.
Thursday morning, the athletic department announced a rather-drastic change to the way Clemson students can receive tickets for the 2018 season, one that is expected to end with the Tigers right back in the College Football Playoff mix for the fourth straight year. For the first time, Clemson has decided to put a portion of its student tickets up for sale. Of the 10,200 total student tickets available for each home game this fall, 3,600 of them are available for purchase.
A season ticket that will guarantee a student admission into every game with a lower level seat will be $280 for the year, which averages out to $40 a game. That costs drops to $210 total for the year, or $30 per game for a guaranteed upper level seat. Should a student purchase student tickets but be unavailable to use them at any point, that student is allowed to re-sell that ticket and transfer it to another student.
The registration process to purchase tickets begins August 1, and for those students who do not want to purchase tickets, they can continue to apply through the normal Clemson student lottery system for the possibility of earning a free ticket.
While Radakovich took some heat while he was at Georgia Tech when he raised student fees to help generate athletic department funds, this move toward selling tickets at Clemson has a different purpose. All along, Radakovich has maintained that Clemson needed to figure out a way to make sure its student tickets were going to be in the hands of the most passionate Clemson students who wanted to be at the games the most. The new policy — a collaboration between incoming student body president Mason Foley and the athletic department — should do just that.
"Student tickets is probably one of those topics from a student standpoint that is water-cooler talk, hallway talk," said Graham Neff, Clemson's deputy director of athletics. "We wanted to help enact the desires of the student leadership, who is acting on behalf of the student body.
"We felt like tickets sometimes weren't getting in the hands of the kids that were most passionate or most wanted the tickets."
Additionally, Clemson is going to change the way it distributes tickets for the hill — the one place where there has been the most controversy about sparse attendance. To ensure that the hill is going to be filled with students who want to be there, Clemson is going to save 1,500 hill tickets for distribution until Game Day itself. At an on-campus site, those 1,500 tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, along with any student lottery tickets that either went unclaimed or were returned.
By giving the students three different options, Clemson is adamant it wants to give students themselves more control of the process.
If more than 3,600 students decide they want to buy season tickets, priority will be based on a combination of class status and IPTAY collegiate club membership. Clemson anticipates demand will exceed supply. But in the event that fewer than 3,600 students decide they want to buy season tickets, the leftovers will go right back into the student lottery.
Should all go as planned, the hill — and all of student seating — will be filled for every minute of every game. That's the ultimate goal and has been ever since Foley was elected in February. The Board of Trustees even got involved in October and Neff has had made this process an ongoing dialogue with as many as the last five student body presidents at Clemson.
"At the end of the day, it's not like we can make students come to the game. We feel good about the product on the field and the experience and we're trying to create a process that helps get the tickets in the hands of the right kids," Neff said. "We feel good that this is a good path ahead and we do feel good that this was comprehensively discussed between certainly student leadership and campus leadership and other student organizations."
"When your bosses tell you to fill the hill," he said last month, "that’s kind of what is high on your priority list."