Holder: Championships Don't Come Cheap

It was expected for some time now, and with the mailing of the new brochure to season-ticket holders and the stories in the media it is now known that the overall average jump in OSU season tickets is roughly 27 percent with the high being in the club seats where ticket prices (not the required donation) jump 71 percent. Basketball season tickets also are increasing 14.9 percent.

OSU Vice President for Athletics and athletics director Mike Holder appeared on Sports Talk with Robert Allen and Friends on Tuesday and made the first of what will be many explanations of the increase in ticket prices. For Holder it comes down to competition. Are Oklahoma State fans willing to "Cowboy Up" as the brochure asks to help their teams have a chance to compete in the dog eat dog neighborhood of the Big 12?

"Change is tough, and it is hard to face the reality in the marketplace," started Holder. "Fortunately or unfortunately, whatever your point of view, we are in the Big 12 Conference and if you want to compete for championships in this conference, especially against the likes of Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, who all have multiple national titles, it's a very expensive propostion.

"Make no mistake about it, irregardless of winning four games this past year, our focus in the future is to contend for that Big 12 title, and if you do that then you are going to be in contention for the national championship. This is just a small step. it doesn't guarantee anything, but what it does do is it gives you an opportunity to do what we need to do for our athletes. I think that will inspire other athletes to come and play for the Cowboys."

Holder is a student of history, and it is the history he has known for 33 years as the golf coach at Oklahoma State and observer of OSU athletics and his brief start as athletics director that pointed him in this direction.

"I inherited a budget here that is ninth or 10th in the conference, and it's not about our budget," said Holder, who has been very profitable in his personal finances. "We are going to lose money this year and I don't know of very many businesses that stay around very long if they are losing money. We are building all these new facilities and every time we do then our utilities go up and our maintenance goes up ... staffing expense goes up. This isn't just a football problem. It is throughout the athletic department.

"If you have to go up against Texas and we are spending $35 million and they are spending $80 million, they are spending twice as much as we are on something," continued Holder. "I don't think we have to get up exactly into their league as far as budget to be competitive with those guys, but we have to get closer. This isn't going to do it, The football season ticket price is still going to be seventh in the league, and that's if no one else responds with a ticket increase. We are still in the bottom half of the league in ticket price, and we are well, well below in what we charge our fans to sit in a premium seat.

"What we have primarily done is challenge the people that sit in our better seats to pay more. I know a lot of people would counter with the fact that our product isn't as good as those top schools. I would say to them that they are right, but I would also say that you are not going to get any better without doing soemthing to raise revenue. How do I know that? History tells me that. We have always been in the low end of the league in season tickets and donor seating. You get what you pay for and we want to change that paradigm going forward."

Listening Tuesday night to Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds on the Big 12 radio show, Conference Call, he made no apologies for the money Texas has and spends to be successful in athletics with the focus on football.

"It's the American way," said Dodds. "We are going to keep spending money because we intend to be competitive and our intention is to win as many championships as we can. That football championship this past year has to be at the top of my memories in athletics. It meant so much to our University."

The question is, how much would a national football title mean to Oklahoma State? Do Cowboy fans want to see their program win one of those crystal trophies or do they just want to show up and be good occasionally and average or worse the rest of the time?

Holder is intent on finding out. He said he won't be hiding, but will be proactive and wants to hear what Cowboy fans have to say.

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