OSU football: Stock exchange
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
11/10/09 at 12:18 PM
STILLWATER — Among Oklahoma State's signs of success is an unprecedented volume of garbage.
During the 2005 season, following a home football game, OSU would spend $26,000 on the Boone Pickens Stadium clean-up operation.
This year, the clean-up cost has soared to $50,000 per game.
"It takes two days and it takes a lot of people," OSU athletic director Mike Holder said. "There's a lot more trash than we used to have."
That's because OSU has substantially greater attendance than it used to have.
As recently as 2006, OSU sold only 32,903 season tickets. In 2007, the attendance average was 40,024.
This year, in spite of the nation's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Oklahoma State has broken school records for overall season-ticket sales (45,952) and student season-ticket sales (11,385).
OSU is on pace to shatter the school record for single-season attendance average. The record of 48,254 was set last season. Through six of OSU's eight home dates this season, the attendance average is 54,476.
For Saturday's 7 p.m., ABC-televised Big 12 game with Texas Tech, a crowd of about 55,000 is expected.
For a 2005 home football game, OSU generated $1.2 million in ticket revenue. This year's figure is $2.2 million. Football-ticket revenue is the most prominent source of funding for OSU's athletic operations budget, which for the 2009-10 fiscal year is $49.6 million.
Within the Big 12, OSU's budget figure ranks No. 8. The University of Texas' budget is $129 million. Oklahoma's is $80.7 million.
When he became the Cowboys' athletic director in September 2005, Holder recognized that OSU's athletic department was starving for money.
"I just knew that something had to change," Holder said. "We had tried cheap ticket prices ... and in football, it never got us anywhere. I thought we didn't have a whole lot to lose. We had to change the paradigm."
In March 2006, Holder announced a 28 percent increase in the price of a basic football season ticket. He was pelted with criticism.
"I found out real fast that the most unpopular thing you could do as an athletic director is to raise prices," Holder said. "Just about everyone had told me not to do it. We had hired a consulting firm to determine what the market would bear. Basically, they told us to hold the price steady or increase it just a small amount.
"If we had taken that advice, where would we be now? Probably at the bottom of the Big 12 in revenue."
Since 2006-07, the Oklahoma State athletics budget has increased by slightly more than $12 million. This year, OSU held steady with its ticket pricing. For a season-ticket holder, the per-game price is $59.87. In 2008, it was $59.85.
Record sales apparently have been sparked not only by the stadium renovation and the Cowboys becoming a Top 25 program, but by Holder's "premium game" policy. In 2008 and again this year, Holder designated one home date as being a "premium game" — with admittance limited only to those who had purchased season tickets. The 2008 "premium game" was the Bedlam clash with Oklahoma. This year, it was the opener against Georgia.
"You can say what you want about Holder, but if he were running a Fortune 500 company, it would be in the top 10 every year," Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. "He's never had a problem with thinking big, and then he's got a best friend (T. Boone Pickens) who thinks big because that's all he's ever done his whole life."
Because of the economic climate, OSU officials entered the 2009 ticket-sales campaign with the hope of at least matching the 2008 school-record total of 39,976. Instead, there was an obliteration of the school record.
Reflecting on his decision to raise prices three years ago, Holder said, "I knew we had a core of supporters who were avid OSU supporters — supporters who would come to every game whether we were good or bad, rain or shine. I thought that those supporters were not as price-sensitive, and I thought if you gave them an honest explanation of why you needed to raise the prices, they would understand.
"Our fans were tired of losing football. They understood that competing for championships comes with a price tag. You can't shop for Big 12 and national championships at the discount department store."
OSU vs. Texas Tech
7 p.m. Saturday
Radio: KFAQ am1170, KRVT am1270
Bill Haisten 581-8397
OSU fans chant "O-S-U" at Boone Pickens Stadium earlier this season. OSU has broken school records this year in overall season-ticket sales and student season-ticket sales. STEPHEN HOLMAN / Tulsa World