Football still booming
BY MIKE STRAIN World Sports Editor
Thursday, July 09, 2009
7/09/09 at 3:50 AM
College football in Oklahoma appears to be recession proof.
Despite an economic downturn, the University of Oklahoma has a higher football season-ticket renewal rate than any time in the Bob Stoops era. At Oklahoma State, the Cowboys could be on track to set another school record for season ticket sales. And at TU, the school is on a comparable sales pace to a year ago, as reported on tulsaworld.com.
OU has sold approximately 69,000 season tickets to the public — a 99 percent renewal rate. The athletic department will sell approximately 8,000 more season tickets to students, for a total of 77,000 season tickets. The few thousand remaining tickets in the 82,000-seat stadium are sold on a single-game basis.
"We don't have all the figures, but it wouldn't surprise me if that renewal rate led the nation," OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said in a statement issued by the school. "This rate would be exceptional any year but is especially notable during these challenging economic times."
The increase in renewals this season came despite the difficult economic climate and a rise in ticket prices. The base price for an OU season ticket is $375, or $62.50 per game on the six-game home schedule. Last year, season tickets were $357, or $59.50 per game, according to an OU official.
OU's season-ticket renewal rate has averaged 96 percent in the Stoops era, which began in the 1999 season.
At Oklahoma State, the Cowboys set a record for season-ticket sales last season, and a spokesman said Wednesday that the school is on track to break that record.
A year ago, OSU sold 39,976 season tickets, with 30,000 going to the public and the remainder to students. This year, the Cowboys have a 97.5 renewal rate on public sales and expect that to climb, said associate athletic director Kevin Klintworth.
"It's pretty amazing for us with the economy and no OU home game this year," said Klintworth, referring to the lift in ticket sales the Cowboys received last season from hosting the annual Bedlam game.
A year ago, OSU didn't sell single-game tickets to the OU game. Fans had access only if they bought season tickets. This year, the Cowboys will have the same policy for the Sept. 5 season-opening game against Georgia.
Oklahoma State has sold 29,216 tickets this year, Klintworth said. He said sales trends indicate that OSU will reach the 30,000 mark in the next two weeks through sales of the final season tickets available in the in the renovated west end zone of Boone Pickens Stadium.
The season-ticket capacity in the west end zone is 14,000. The Cowboys have sold 13,200 of those seats, and OSU officials expect the final 800 tickets to be gone before August. Boone Pickens Stadium has an official capacity of 60,218.
OSU's ticket prices on a per-game basis have remained the same for the 2009 season. In OSU's first season with an eight-game home schedule, the basic season-ticket price is $479 — $59.88 per game. Four season tickets in the west end zone are sold for $280 per ticket — $35 per game.
In May, the Cowboys averaged 176 season tickets sold per day. In May 2008, that number was 114 per day, Klintworth said.
OSU also has had growth in its fundraising arm for athletic scholarships — the Posse Club. The donor group has grown from 5,900 members two years ago to a record 9,100 during a drive to reach 10,000 members.
At the University of Tulsa, the school has sold 8,100 season tickets. Last year, TU sold 9,532 season tickets. The 80 percent renewal rate is comparable to last year at this time, according to the university. A TU spokesperson said the school expects to reach the same ticket sales as a year ago, even though ticket prices have risen.
A year ago, TU's lowest season ticket price was $60. This year, it's $78. The highest season-ticket price a year ago was $210. This year, it's $240. The school also has season tickets priced at $132 and $180 this season.
At OU, the school has a record number of donors to the Sooner Club. The club has 10,277 members, a rise of 715 donors in the last year — a period that included a third consecutive Big 12 football championship, a Heisman Trophy winner (quarterback Sam Bradford) and a berth in the BCS national championship game.
OU's capacity at Memorial Stadium is officially 82,112. But the school routinely attracts larger crowds. Last year, OU averaged 85,075, according to the NCAA. The Sooners had a Memorial Stadium record crowd of 85,646 on Nov. 22 last season against Texas Tech.
"From a coaching perspective, it's rewarding to me to hear our players talk about (the fans)," OU coach Bob Stoops said in a statement released by the school. "They can't wait to tell people what it's like to play in front of that crowd in Norman, and the personal meaning it has to each one of them is something that's hard to describe."
The Sooners' football program has more than tripled its revenue during Stoops' tenure as head coach. The year before Stoops arrived, OU's football program generated $11.6 million. In the 2007-08 fiscal year (the most recent data available), OU's football revenue was $40.9 million, according to numbers reported to the U.S. Department of Education.
OU recently announced that its athletic department has contributed $7 million to the university for academic programs.
Last month, OU president David Boren said a recent $3 million contribution from the athletic department for academic programs "helped the university avoid tuition increases for students and layoffs of faculty and staff."
Mike Strain 581-8356
OU fans cheer against Cincinnati last season. The Sooners' season-ticket renewal rate is 99 percent. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World