New Student System for Basketball?

Since there appear to be many more current students at BON, I thought I would touch on something potentially interesting for those of you still roaming the Forty Acres as students...

In clicking the link to order my 2008 football season tickets and the subsequent OU ticket, I saw an interesting item about a new program for the 2008-9 Basketball season.  Before providing some ruminations over this new system--and what it potentially entails--I want to remind everyone to buy their season tickets before Friday's deadline.  There's nothing worse than the one friend who claims he "never got the e-mail" about the deadline.  Assuming he remains your friend after the episode, of course...

The e-mail said to look at the Student Orange Bloods page for some updates over the new UT Varsity Rewards Program.  Here is the relevant text:

NEW UT Varsity Rewards Program
Are you the ultimate Student Orange Blood and want to get hooked up? UT Athletics is proud to announce the UT Varsity Rewards Program. This program is designed for students only and offers incentives to attend the 2008-09 Texas Men’s and Women’s Basketball home games. The program features a multi-tiered system with prizes increasing in value as you attend more games. Keep your eye on TexasSports.com and the Student Orange Bloods (SOBs) page this summer as we unveil the program in full detail.  

The page also says that the Stampede program will continue next season, albeit at the increased price of $70 (up from $50 last season).  Here are some of my initial thoughts:

1) This seems to be a waste of time, in my book, unless the strings attached are pretty heavy.  I just can't imagine students deciding to come to the Exhibition games and non-conference games against Texas Southern'ish teams for the opportunity to win a t-shirt.  However, if the program provides the biggest incentive, which is guaranteed ticket access to biggest games (such as KU last year), it will boost early season attendance at the expense of angering some of the casual fans.  I think tickets to road games, the basketball banquet, or autographed items seem like a good start for some of the bigger prizes...

2) I'm actually not too alarmed by the increased price of the Stampede system.  My guess is the Athletics Department wants to prevent students shelling from out the money for the Stampede pass, then only showing up for a handful of games.  By increasing the price, it should encourage people to either think twice about the purchase or decide to get their money's worth by going to more games.  However, with Football tickets  (LASP, Season Tickets, OU ticket) already creeping up to $260, it might be a squeeze for some students to spend an extra $70 on the Stampede.

3) Giving prizes will never substitute for using creativity in reaching out to students and limiting their excuses for not attending games.  After complaining for several years, someone finally listened to my suggestion about allowing students to bring backpacks to the Erwin Center, then checking them in a central location.  They've also done a better job checking IDs and streamlining the system with Student Affairs.  I'm cautiously optimistic about this program, but I'll be severely disappointed if it remains the only serious attempt to increase student participation and attendance at basketball games heading into next season.

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