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Got Tickets?

logo-virginiatechThere certainly has been a lot of good news coming out of Jamerson these days. For those not possessing a thorough knowledge of Virginia Tech, the Jamerson Athletic Center houses the administrative offices for the Tech Athletic Department. These seem to be fun times around the place.

There were quite a few Hokies quite surprised to discover that they would not be receiving tickets to Tech’s opening game at NC State. The number included at least a few who had been led to believe they would and had in fact been charged for them. Extensive travel plans and Tailgate preparations had been made. Those little cards informing them of the importance of the disclaimer on the ticket application, the one saying that tickets would be sent unless they were not took on added importance. The ‘were not’ should have occupied a little more prominent place.

It would seem the Tech ticket office took those applications and the money, knowing full well they would not be able to fulfill many of the orders. From their standpoint, at least they had the use of the cash for a few months. To those that didn’t make the required priority cut, the message was: ‘thanks for your support, but too bad.’

Once again it occurs to me that one of these days the Virginia Tech football program is not going to be quite as good as it is at the present. For those boasting message board loons perhaps not old enough to remember when Tech football was something other than constant bowl games and national rankings, here’s a clue: it will happen again. Frank Beamer will begin his sixtieth year on the planet during this season and has already experienced the health problems that have plagued his family. It is safe to say that more coaching seasons are behind than lay ahead.

It is also a matter of historical fact that few programs coached by the sort of legendary figure Frank has become at Tech survive the retirement of said legend without at least a period of adjustment that includes a marked decrease in the victories. It will happen at Tech, too; do not kid yourself into believing it will not.

When that time comes, and it will, perhaps the Tech Athletic Department will wish it had treated what it seems to consider disposable fans a bit better. To be sure, these are high times indeed around Jamerson. There are a lot more fans clamoring to eyeball Hokie football than there are tickets to accommodate them. This elementary exercise in supply and demand has brought much joy to the department’s bean counters as a demand far outstripping the limited supply caused a serious jump in Hokie Club contributions. The law of the jungle that is Lane Stadium on gameday has become survival of the wealthiest.

Tech’s placing of Lane tickets up at auction does not make them unique in athletics. Every school does it, or at least every school with a team good enough to garner huge fan support. Maximizing revenue during the good times is only good business sense.

However, when the time comes when Tech’s record is a lot closer to 4-7 than it is to 11-0, and it will, perhaps those in charge of such things at Tech will wish they had treated some long-time fans a bit better. The next time a Penn State home game is televised, check the empty seats in Beaver Stadium, perhaps not what the administration of that school had in mind when it gave JoePa a lifetime contract. Fans are very fickle when it comes to supporting something other than a winner.

Take a look at most any game at the Orange Bowl not involving the fans of Florida or Florida State. There are always thousands of empty seats for a Canes program that wins, usually big, but not big enough to satisfy a blasé Canes fan base. Miami the university is attempting to convince the taxpayers of Miami the city to tear down huge sections of that aged and decrepit structure so it will not appear so empty on television. This is not exactly how most major powers do it. It does demonstrate that fans can be a precious commodity. At Tech, the increasingly callous attitude with which the athletic administration seems to be treating some of its fans just may one day come back to bite them.

The major problem is that the game is at NC State. The ticket situation for the Wolfpack is quite a bit different than it was last year for away games at Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. At those places it was no more difficult for Tech fans to obtain tickets than to simply go to each school’s Web site and buy them. None of the fan bases at those schools are exactly known for being football-friendly. A week after the State game, a maroon tide is going to roll over Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke will not have seen a crowd as large as what Tech will bring since the days of the Great Society when the Blue Devils were actually good. I bet there were those around Duke in those days who thought the good times of Bill Murray would never end, either. I doubt Ted Roof will be hosting many recruits that day.

Such is not the case at State. The Wolfpack has a football following every bit as large and fanatical as Tech’s. They might not have had as many opportunities to demonstrate their devotion as have Tech fans over the last dozen years, but they sure spring into action when given the chance. The Wolfpackers are positively Hokie-ish in that they sell out Carter-Finley Stadium for every game and like Tech fans lay out large bucks for the privilege of doing so. There are far fewer tickets available for Tech fans than there were at Wake, GT, Carolina or Duke. Throw in the fact that Carter-Finley is about 10k seats smaller than Lane and there ain’t a of tickets around for Tech fans to grab. The impression was given last year that ACC football was operated solely for the convenience of traveling Tech fans. This year State does not seem to be quite so obliging. Gee, there are people in this conference that care about football after all.

With no public sale of tickets at State to feed the voracious appetite of Hokie fans, all that was left were the relative handful sent to Tech. The distribution method chosen by the Tech ticket office seems to have been to charge everybody Golden and above who requested them and later worry about any fallout from not being able to deliver. ‘Later’ came after many Tech fans had already made Raleigh travel plans.

Leading huge supporters of Tech football, such as a guy who hauls his RV to each and every game, home and away and opens it up for the rest of us to mooch off his hospitality, into believing he would have tickets for the State game and then telling him “No tickets for you” a month before the game is not exactly how you go about engendering loyalty during the bad times. I am not in the ticket-selling business, only the ticket-buying one, so I have no notion of the logistics involved in distributing the State tickets. It does seem, however, that things could have been handled a bit better.

The Virginia Tech Athletic Director is not known for his sunny personality or pleasant disposition. It is an image he often seems to go out of his way to cultivate. The State Ticket Affair is not going to generate a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings towards him. He might not care now, but the day will come when Tech will need the fans that received those cards. Banking on those fans remaining loyal no matter what is a dangerous game to play. In the meantime, anybody have any extra State tickets for Larry, Clota and Rebecca? They would be appreciated.

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