Ticket Renewals Dip Amid Controversy

The CU athletic department ticket office is nearing the end of its season-ticket renewal phase and sales are off from last year's renewal rate by 10-percent at this point. While it's unclear exactly how much, it appears that the controversy surrounding the football program that's blown up since February has played a part in the slower renewal sales.

"We normally have about 1,000 seats that don't renew every year for one reason or another," said associate athletic director John Meadows. "And then we end up getting new people, which gets us back up to our base."

Last year, that base of season tickets sold to the public — not including club seats and suites, or student-section ducats — was roughly 25,000. As of today, 2,500 seats have not been renewed, according athletic department officials. Roughly 900 of those are $300 seats between the goal lines at Folsom Field, and the others are elsewhere and priced at either $240 or $180 in CU's tiered pricing system.

Also, the 2,500 number of cancellations may be higher than it seems. The student section allotment of 12,000 tickets sold out last year, and the ticket office sold between 400 and 500 regular season tickets to students on top of that. If student tickets — which are sold in August — prove as popular as they did last season, ticket office officials think they will sell out and students once again will turn to regular season-ticket packages.

The season-ticket package includes six home games at Folsom. The ticket office plans to begin reassigning seats that have gone un-renewed on May 28.

Athletic officials admit there was some concern about ticket renewals after the controversy erupted and Coach Gary Barnett was placed on administrative leave with pay on Feb. 18. And though they declined to give specific numbers, there have been some ticket cancellations in protest of both how the CU administration has handled the controversy and of the football program.

Some season-ticket holders have also said they are waiting to see how the controversy plays out.

"We have a significant number of people who are trying to wait to the very last moment because they want to know who they've got," Meadows said. "I think it's clear that there are people who are waiting to see what goes on here on both sides of the issue."

The controversy erupted in February when testimony in a lawsuit against the university by a woman who accused former football recruits of sexual assault was leaked. Since then a handful of other accusations of a similar nature have been brought to light, totaling nine. No one has ever been charged in the allegations, which date as far back as 1997, and most recently two current players were cleared in one of the cases through DNA testing.

Some CU football fans have criticized President Elizabeth Hoffman's handling of the situation, while others have placed blame for the black eye that the university has sustained from the allegations on the football program.

It appears that President Elizabeth Hoffman's position is safe, as the CU board of regents gave her a public vote of confidence in Wednesday's regents meeting. Hoffman, later that day, released a statement in support of Chancellor Richard Byyny. Hoffman said last month she planned on announcing Barnett's fate as head coach at the end of May. She has made no public statement on the fate of Athletic Director Dick Tharp.

Meadows said that the ticket office has tried to point out the benefits of the unique game day experience at Folsom Field to those ticket-holders who have wanted to cancel their subscription in protest.

"The experience of a Saturday afternoon at Folsom Field is a wonderful experience," Meadows said. "If they don't buy season tickets and they think they are going to punish Betsy and/or Dick Byyny, and/or Dick Tharp, and/or Gary Barnett – the ones they really hurt are the student athletes."

Meanwhile, it's unclear how the controversy has affected sales of club seats and suites, if at all. According to Meadows, one suite lease has been cancelled, but another has been signed. Also, 20 new club seats tickets have been purchased in recent months, bringing the total number to 914 of the 1,803 available.

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