Student fees for athletics

Submitted by Sambojangles on March 20th, 2012 at 12:45 AM

In light of two separate board posts today, and a constant murmur of complaint on this blog about the rising cost of tickets to see our favorite Michigan teams play, I wanted to post a LINK to a random article about the hidden fees athletic departments use to finance themselves at other schools. There is nothing special about that article, it was just one of the top hits when I Googled "student athletic fees college," but it interestingly talks about two Virginia schools that happen to be notable right now--Virginia Commonwealth and Norfolk State, who both pulled off upsets last week in the NCAA basketball tournament. For the trouble of having a basketball team (plus all the other sports), each student pays over $1000 a year on top of tuition and all the other fees. While ticket prices for an individual game might be low, make no mistake, the students are paying for their teams.

Of course, this stands in contrast to the Martin-Brandon Michigan AD, which prides itself on being entirely self-supporting, even running a profit. As a recent graduate, I appreciate that the financial burden of school is not made worse for the privilege of having so many great teams. I want to thank everyone who supports the AD and helps pay for the successful athletes and wonderful facilities we all enjoy. Without them, we would either not have the resources to build skyboxes, upgrade video screens, or pay coaches, or the school would (metaphorically) go back to the parents for more cash--looking for a subsidy from the University itself.

Without becoming explicitly political, I generally believe that people should pay for what they consume, and not be forced into subsidizing anyone else. So, I am happy that our AD is not paid for by the general student body (or taxpayers of Michigan), but rather by the season ticket holders, donors, and TV networks. If it seems like I am defending Brandon's testing of the limits of price elasticity for Michigan sports, I am, because the alternative is much worse. As everyone knows, there is no such thing as a free lunch. If we agree that having college athletics is important, someone will have to pay for it, and as long as Brandon knows what he is doing (I trust he does), I am completely comfortable with soliciting more money from those most willing and able to provide it. I know that the passion for Michigan sports is limitless, and hope that the generous support continues well into the future.


Michigan J. Frog

March 20th, 2012 at 12:52 AM ^

And I agree to an extent, but there is a legitimate point to be made about how the situation of the athletic department at VCU isn’t analogous to the Michigan athletic department. I don’t think the only alternatives are sneakily being charged $1000, or have an AD consistently testing the limits of ticket elasticity.


March 20th, 2012 at 1:07 AM ^

This is why Brian has been making noise about further division within D-1. There are some athletic departments, like Michigan's that are self-supporting or profitable on their own merits; most operate at a loss, and can't exist at all without pulling money from students or the university's general fund to survive.

It's part of the myth that the NCAA is some money-grubbing monolith; most of the money just keeps things afloat. The only people getting rich are some of the coaches, and you could certainly argue that the good ones replace any value that they take away.

Bando Calrissian

March 20th, 2012 at 1:49 AM ^

The Athletic Department has (intentionally) been an entirely separate financial entity from the University for, oh, about a century now.  It was Yost's way of ensuring he could essentially do whatever the hell he wanted, without the pesky professors telling him not to waste the University's money, especially since he was getting paid just as much as they were.  As a result, the University gets to use Athletics as a marketing tool without having to worry about how much it's going to cost.  It doesn't cost them a dime.

It's worked out for us pretty well, I think.


March 20th, 2012 at 2:50 AM ^

Not entirely true... I'm fairly certain that our athletic department was operating at a deficit when Bill Martin took over as recently as 2000.  From hearing him speak, he did not take a salary until he had the AD budget in the black, which was greatly aided by the PSD/Victors Club donor program for football.


March 20th, 2012 at 1:39 PM ^

"Parted ways with Nike" is the nicest way to phrase that as regards Michigan's behavior. If I'm remembering correctly, the university responded to pressure about Nike's sweatshops by cancelling the contract where they gave us a lot money. After realizing that we still needed uniforms, the athletic department proceeded to then buy them--wait for it--from Nike. I'm sure there's plenty of blame to go around on that one, but let me say how happy I am that Tom Goss is not the head of the department anymore.


March 20th, 2012 at 7:51 AM ^

I believe that telling faithful supporters of U-M athletics for the past 30+ years to GTFO because they happen to work in low-paid public service positions is a pretty sad indicator of the "values" of the current AD.


March 20th, 2012 at 9:47 AM ^

I think you're being a bit dramatic. If they raise ticket prices its going to be a few bucks per seat...its not going to double or triple. You'll have to make minor adjustments to your life to cope with $150 difference per seat per year. To say you'll have to "dramatically scale back your attendance" is a bit much...unless of course you have like 15 season seats for football and basketball in which case I'd say you're overdoing it anyway. 


March 20th, 2012 at 10:10 AM ^

"Ultimately Brandon will get what he wants: a more homogenous, upper-income crowd."

The university is half way there with the luxury boxes. 

This is a difficult thing;  the athletic department is dependent on football income and thus has to sell, sell, sell, everything football related to keep the money coming in.  However one has to wonder where the line is drawn.  Not everyone was happy with the luxury "improvements".



March 20th, 2012 at 11:05 AM ^

The thing is, you get what you pay for.  In the last few years the AD has done some major renovations to both Crisler and the Big House, and these have had hugely positive affects on the program.  I think that had we not had the new PDC or the renovation to Crisler then we would have never landed McGary, and I think the Big House renovations have had a positive effect on the games (it's a LOT louder in the big house now that the suites are there) and recruiting.  However, the money has to come from somewhere, so by paying these increased ticket prices you are paying for the cost of a better product (also, you are paying for the nicer facilities in which you can enjoy the game).  

The only way you can avoid these hikes are by either not upgrading (and thus limiting the program), or jacking up the cost for students either by raising our ticket prices significantly or by increasing our tuition.  I am very biased (as I am a student myself), but I really don't like the idea of raising student costs any more—we all pay (some scholarships aside) between 25K and 50K (in or out of state costs) to attend Michigan. If costs increased dramatically for students it would definitely hinder the student section, which in my opinion is vital to Michigan home games, as it is, by far, the loudest section of the stadium.

The Wonderful 135

March 20th, 2012 at 9:39 AM ^

We all want to have the best athletics program in the country (world?).  There is definitely a price to pay for that, and if we want to keep our top-notch programs, we have to support these costs. 

Also, has anyone taken the time to compare these price increases to basic inflation?  They might not be "increasing" all that much.


March 20th, 2012 at 10:09 AM ^

Inflation went up 8.32% from 01-01-08  through 12-31-11.  That represents roughly about a $6 increase on a ticket which cost $70 at the start of the period.  Don't forget that wage growth, on the other hand, for most people has been relatively flat for quite some time.

It is a delicate balancing act because at some point point, you start pricing out your live audience.  Brandon is keenly aware of this problem, which is why he is always looking at better ways to market the brand.  Hopefully, it will never reach the point of advertising being placed  on the walls of the Big House.

Rather be on BA

March 20th, 2012 at 9:44 AM ^

I didn't know Dave Brandon had an Mgoblog account.  Or talked in the third person for that matter.  Shoulda expected it I suppose.


In all seriousness though, I agree with everything you had to say. 


March 20th, 2012 at 10:10 AM ^

Not sure if these are the same types of fees as the OP is mentioning, but at University of Florida, all students have to pay on the order of $600-700 a semester in "student fees", even graduate students on fellowships. This apparently goes to building maintenance, graders, utilities, etc. Unfortunately, it's just another ploy for the University to get money without "increasing tuition".

david from wyoming

March 20th, 2012 at 10:26 AM ^

Same here at Wyoming, however it is covered for grad students so I'm not paying for it out of pocket. Since I'm on a state funded TA, the state of Wyoming is paying that for me.

I do have to pay 'printing fees' out of pocket which is horseshit since I only use the printer in my lab and not the random printers around campus.

The FannMan

March 20th, 2012 at 9:37 PM ^

They actually use the Breslin for a lot more than Basketball.  Concerts, events, etc.  Heck, that was were they had the Michigan Bar Exam when I took it in '96.  (Talk about a miserable experience.)  You can actually argue that it is a resource for their entire university and community that justified the increased costs.

/goes to take a shower after defending MSU


March 20th, 2012 at 11:49 AM ^

The only "real" increase was in the price for bball tickets.  They were $99 and now they're $150.  That's a pretty big increase for one year, I'll give you that.  However, if you went to the games, this should be no surprise to you.  The fact is that the student section has been set-up for a horrible bball program.  This program/team is not longer horrible and student bball tickets purchased are drastically increasing.  

If they had not raised prices, half the arena would be student tickets in the next few years and the wait to get into games would just start to get ridiculous.  To me, bball tickets were drastically undervalued for what students have been getting the last few years and it should get even better in the next few seasons.  

Now, I don't care that much if football does what it has been doing, basically just gradual price increases, but don't jump them, ever, like they did for bball student tickets.  Students should have to pay for their tickets to avoid charging everybody, but the ad has to be very careful not to curb demand too much.  Football is established, but bball is still growing, even if we're in a great spot right now.  The games "sell out", but very few of them are completely filled.  If you want long-term success you have to build the enviornment people want to go see, which is what the student section has been doing


March 20th, 2012 at 1:42 PM ^

"Without becoming explicitly political, I generally believe that people should pay for what they consume, and not be forced into subsidizing anyone else."


This avoids being explicitly political if and only if the reader lacks a brain. 

I offer no comment on that. I agree with the rest of what you said. 

Edit: "As everyone knows, there is no such thing as a free lunch."

This is also a political talking point, verbatim. 

Mitch Cumstein

March 20th, 2012 at 10:16 PM ^

While I agree with your points on the political commentary, I think that if he had simply left out the "without being explicitly political" the point would have been applicable to his post and I'm not sure it would have been taken as a general political statement.  Even if someone thinks that students should supplement ticket prices, I think you'd have to admit the opinion that people attending games should pay for it, is at least reasonable.   


March 20th, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

Prices will increase and michigan will have ads at the big house to support our facilities that absolutely have to fucking enormous and made from 14k gold.

As db says "you see the chain you know the deal"

Crock of shit all of it. I would love to see the income from merchandising and licensing that is made from the literally millions of jersyes, shirts, hats, coffee mugs on and on and on. Those things that vcu (moronic comparison) do not have the luxury of. I dont wanna hear this free lunch bullshit. Nothing is free attending a game so fuck that idea off the planet. People like this who take an etherial view of what the world makes our sport look like piss me off. The fans, most of which who have never been to a game but buy new gear every year support this program more than any dbag luxury ass clown with 10 clients who could care less if we win as long as its entertaining and they are "the man" for the day.

Never swipe aside or look down on the little guy working a public sector job. Those dudes who clean sewers, etc are the core of this fanbase. Dont fuck with them anymore. They built this into what it is and to lose sight of that is a fallacy.

Sorry its mostly incoherent but im no DB corporate fan. The dude does alot of positive things but because he does, does not mean we should all buy into this "this the way it outta be" bandwagon ideal.


March 20th, 2012 at 3:37 PM ^

In other words, you want cheap tickets.  So does everyone else.  It's not going to happen as long as football has to subsidize 26 other sports (men's basketball and hockey manage to turn a small profit) and pay an ever-skyrocketing tuition bill. 

People talk about Brandon as though he personally is enriching himself off your ticket purchases.  He's not the "owner" of the athletic department.  The money he brings in flows back into other sports, and to the school itself - we're one of the few universities in which the athletic department actually subsidizes the school, not vice-versa.  You can argue that this funding mechanism is flawed, but it's not likely to change.  When Brandon retires, another "greedy" AD will succeed him. 


March 20th, 2012 at 6:02 PM ^

Simply put i want things traditional. I understand you have to adapt or die but the luxury boxes just kill me. The terrible music insults us all ( journey and the like once or twice but on repeat is painful ). I guess it all seems so fast and uncontrolled. Do music the right way, increase prices slowly, charge fees with a reasonable expectation. Do i see it as a huge money grab, no. Do i find it all mis managed, you bet. I have no problem paying for what i love but don't piss on my back and tell me it's raining.


March 20th, 2012 at 10:28 PM ^

The reasons are clearly outlined above. I have nothing but the emotional response i felt with every step toward change. Call me old fashioned. Also i believe it doesn't take experience to criticize. Just a belonging to one group. As much as people are obliged to criticize the president even though not being prior presidents themselves correct?

French West Indian

March 20th, 2012 at 4:17 PM ^

Considering that it is the University of Michigan and that it is supported by taxpayer dollars (at least somewhat) then there is no reason why the representative of the University (including athletic teams) shouldn't be subsidized.  (This is also why, incidentally, the teams should be held to the highest standards.)

Making the argument that our football team should should embrace a pay-for-what-you-consume model is simply capitalism run amok and reflects the most insidious aspects of consumerist cultural infecting traditional American instutitions all for the sake of the priviliged few.  At this rate, I can't wait for the day when the athletes are paid and Michigan Stadium is mericfully renamed Walmart Stadium (or whatever corporate entity ponies up the $$$).




The FannMan

March 20th, 2012 at 9:48 PM ^

I really don't mind the hike in ticekt prices, I just want to see someone other than two MAC teams and Baby Seal U. 

As a alumni and season ticket holder, I am also fine with bearing the brunt of ticket increases.  I think we should keep the student tickets low so the students can afford to see their teams play.



March 20th, 2012 at 10:54 PM ^

And the Michigan athletic department made $24 million dollars last year. So why so many ticket price increases if they made that much money? I don't mind paying a little more but when you are that much in the black why are you increasing basketball prices so much? Don't understand the reasoning. Does DB want to make $50 million next year? Why the big surplus?