LSU makes its case for seat licensing, surcharges

The LSU athletic department is faced with a dilemma.<br><br>Over the next few months, LSU officials must try and figure out a tactful way to inform loyal Tiger followers they might be forced to pay a few extra dollars when attending an LSU football game.

The challenge before them is making fans understand the move will be for the good of the university.

Despite the sensitivity of the matter, LSU athletic officials say it is something that has to be done and athletic director Skip Bertman and his staff have set out on a campaign of educating the masses.

LSU associate athletic director Herb Vincent and his administrative staff have put together an impressive 14-minute presentation outlining the details of LSU's move toward seat licensing in Tiger Stadium, the need for revenue generated from surcharges and the growth and prosperity awaiting LSU in the near future as a result of this fundraising opportunity.

The presentation, Vincent said, will be shown to LSU season ticket holders in time. Right now, LSU officials are preparing to outline their presentation before the state legislature in hopes of having limitations on the number of donation-bearing seats lifted within Tiger Stadium.

The Tiger Athletic Foundation, an independent fundraising arm of the LSU athletic department, currently holds a state-mandated limit of 12 percent of the seats in Tiger Stadium. LSU and TAF officials plan to lobby lawmakers in the upcoming session to abolish that ceiling.

"When the law was written, I think in 1991, to allow TAF to raise money for tickets, it was added on that the TAF could only retain the seats they already controlled," Vincent said. "Over a long period of time that has become a problem."

Louisiana is the only state in the nine-state SEC region that does not allow the individual school access to 100-percent of the seats in the stadium for fund raising purposes. Last year, LSU raised $3.1 million from its allotment of tickets in Tiger Stadium as well as club seating. 

By comparison, the University of Florida raised $15 million from ticket surcharges, Tennessee took in $13 million and Alabama generated $12 million.

"Next year we are going to have accumulated $6.2 million and Florida will have $30 million," Vincent said. "Then the year after, we will have $9.3 million and they will have $45 million. I think you can see a pattern here."

Why does LSU need all that money? Vincent said it is necessary to have those type funds to operate on the highest level with schools such as Tennessee, Florida and Alabama.

Why is LSU behind?

"We were going to try and start raising money like the other schools in the late 1980s and early 90s," Vincent said. "But honestly, we had a dry spell in football. And in the middle of six losing seasons in football, you can't start trying to do something like this. We were falling behind while the other schools were busy growing."

And what are the other schools doing with all the money?

"They are taking that money and putting it back into facilities and renovations," Vincent said. "We don't have that kind of money to operate our athletic department and upgrade our facilities."

To put into perspective how far behind LSU is in terms of spending on facilities, the University of Arkansas has put $170 million into its facilities since 1993. Alabama has spent $153 million on its athletic venues since 1996, and Florida has put up $105 million since 1991.

LSU has spent $69.5 million on facility upgrades and renovations since 1979.

"Minus a $50 million addition to the east side of Tiger Stadium, we have spent less than $20 million on major facility upgrades in the last 20 years," Vincent said.

TAF seating plan

A seating chart with tenative donation prices inside Tiger Stadium.

Some people are under the assumption LSU has plenty of money to operate its athletic department and upgrade facilities at the same time, but Vincent said that is not true.

"The LSU athletic department is completely self-sufficient," he said. "We get no state money to operate and we do not charge student fees."

LSU operates solely on ticket sales, concessions, radio and TV contracts, SEC revenue sharing and private donations, thus the need for seat donations to raise funds.

While some view asking patrons for more money as unpopular move by the LSU athletic department, Vincent says they are doing so for the betterment of the university.

The rest of this story can be found on our free message board, the LSU Sports Fan Forum. Click here to read more and be sure to leave your comments on this topic.

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