Grown men wept, saying how they had been waiting 45 years to see LSU back on top in college football. Fans absorbed themselves in championship mania, as most Tiger faithful were resigned to the fact that the 2003 title was a once-in-a-lifetime event.
That wasn't the case.
Just five seasons later, the Tigers were back in
But no sooner had Les Miles and the Tigers returned to
No matter how sweet capturing a national title might be, like everything, success has a price tag. And less than three days after confetti showered Miles and the Tigers on the floor of the Louisiana Superdome, the LSU Athletic Administration proposed its new, three-year funding plan in the form of increasing contributions from season ticket holders through the 2010 season.
LSU, which prides itself by using no tax dollars or student fees to fund the athletic department's 20 varsity sports, is proposing an increase in Tradition Fund contributions over the next three years.
Single-game tickets for premier non-conference and SEC games next year will rise in price from $45 to $50.
The revenue generated will first go to help the Tiger Band build a new band hall, and the additional revenue generated over the next three calendar years will "allow LSU to address a regular three to four percent inflation rate of its operating expenses, including salaries for coaches, rising costs of travel, utilities, and game guarantees, and to continue to address facilities needs in all sports," as quoted from a university release.
Yet at the same time, the athletic department, which receives no help from the state or university, will continue contributing $3 million annually to the university. And in the end, the athletic department will slowly, but surely, price everyday Joe Fan right out of Tiger Stadium with higher ticket prices and Tradition Fund contributions.
"We first introduced the Tradition Fund in 2003 at contribution levels much lower than other schools with which we must compete on a regular basis," said LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman. "At that time it allowed us to address some critical facility needs. This three-year plan will bring our budget more in line with those other major programs and establish a strong financial foundation for our program for years to come. By setting out a three-year plan, it not only allows LSU to plan for the future, it allows for our fans to plan for the future."
It seems ironic that the Tradition Fund was established in 2003, around the time LSU won its first football national championship.
"We are experiencing great success at LSU, as evidenced by our second football national championship in five years," Bertman said. "But we would be remiss as managers of this athletic program not to look forward and plan for the future if we intend to maintain this level of excellence. In the world of athletics, it's tough to get there, but it's tougher to stay there."
As for the Tradition Fund contributions, the highest contribution levels are for seats located on the sidelines of Tiger Stadium between the 20-yard lines, which include only about 7,800 of LSU's 92,400 seats. The cost of those seats will increase by $150 per year: from the current contribution requirement of $500 to $650 in 2008, to $800 in 2009, and to $950 in 2010. This means by the 2010 season, the Tradition Fund contribution will all but double for some Tiger Stadium patrons.
The university also likes to include the fact that the highest donation levels by the year 2010 will still be "considerably lower than the highest current donation levels at top SEC schools such as
And why is that?
Well, if you look at it in terms of success, about the time the arms race in college football was heating up, LSU was far from the upper echelon. All three of the aforementioned schools were winning national championships on the gridiron:
By the time Nick Saban arrived in the year 2000 and later Les Miles in 2005, the Tigers were far behind fellow SEC institutions in terms of facilities, salaries, and so forth. The current athletic administration has been scrambling for the past five-plus years to catch up with the Joneses.
The bottom line is if LSU fans like winning national championships, they will be forced to dig deeper in their pockets. The more success, the higher the cost.
There is a majority of true fans out there who endured eight losing seasons all the while longing for a chance to smell a national title. Unfortunately, by the time LSU wins another, those "true" fans will be forced to watch from their living rooms as they will be unable to afford to see it in person.
With every New Year, there is change – even at Tiger Rag.
For the past several years, we have maintained a small staff here at Tiger Rag. But as we move closer to the 30th anniversary of the "Bible of LSU Sports," we are experiencing growth.
In the past, we have operated on a writer-by-writer basis, never keeping a full-time, permanent staff. But as we open 2008, we have brought onboard a full-time assistant editor to bring increasing stability to our operation.
Matt Reynolds joins the Tiger Rag team as our new assistant editor. A native of Winnsboro and former ball boy for ex-Tiger great Booger McFarland, Reynolds comes to
Matt brings a fresh outlook and a burst of energy to the Tiger Rag staff and we welcome him to our family. I encourage our readers to do the same in the future. In the coming weeks, you will see more and more from Matt throughout the pages of Tiger Rag as well as online at TigerRag.com.
As we welcome Matt, we bid adieu to our contributing writers in the past. I'd like to personally thank
Now recruiting junkies, do no fret:
And our cast of colorful columnists aren't going anywhere either. Lee, Jim, Marty, Richard and Glenn are here to stay.
So sit tight, Tiger fans. We are excited about a prosperous 2008 and are confident that the best is still yet to come.
Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag. Reach him at email@example.com.