July 18, 2008
As we approach the 2008 football season, I believe it is important to reflect on several factors that played key roles in the process to implement our IPTAY Seat Equity Plan.
First and foremost, I’d like to thank our IPTAY Donors for their cooperation and exceptional response as we made this essential change. While IPTAY made very few changes over the past twenty five years, the IPTAY Seat Equity Plan is important to apply fairness and equity within our donor base, which was our primary goal, as well as keep our competitive platform in the Atlantic Coast Conference by establishing opportunities to increase our resources.
What appeared to surface at several spring Clemson Club meetings and in the IPTAY Office, was the same repetitive question was being asked. “Why should I donate more than $140 to IPTAY because as a new IPTAY donor, even at the Heisman level, you cannot guarantee me seats on the fifty-yard line in Memorial Stadium.” The answer was obviously, no we can’t guarantee your location of seats because there are no seats available in that area.
Certainly many people helped; however, after being introduced to the final plan at the August 2007 Rep meeting, our IPTAY Board and IPTAY Representatives played a profound role in the communication and implementation of the plan. They have done an outstanding job of being advocates for IPTAY Seat Equity. IPTAY is very fortunate to have over 600 ambassadors throughout the state and nation to support Clemson as positive role models. We are all grateful to and proud of our Reps for their vital role in supporting the vision of IPTAY and Clemson Athletics.
I’d be negligent if I did not mention the role our entire staff played, particularly Tim Match, Travis Furbee, Bert Henderson and the Ticket Office. Organizing and disseminating all the communication material, answering various questions and working through the allocation process were difficult challenges. Timelines were established, plans reviewed and our entire external affairs staff pitched in to respond to donor questions and provide explanations. Although this was at times very demanding and time consuming, I can honestly say we worked with very few donors who did not embrace the new IPTAY Seat Equity Plan.
The IPTAY Seat Equity Plan is not new to college athletics and this is one reason we felt compelled to move in this direction. We have aligned ourselves with other BCS schools that have similar plans. Clemson was the only school in the Top 20 in NCAA attendance that had not implemented a seat equity/option or PSL type program. We could have chosen one of several methods to implement our IPTAY Seat Equity Plan including a total reseating or establishing higher prices for tickets on premium sections. Our Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips and the IPTAY Board chose the right plan because it permitted our donors who have had seats for years to have first opportunity to maintain those seats. Therefore, we were able to resurrect the IPTAY system of using levels of donation first and then points within levels.
Finally, let me say that IPTAY has truly been successful primarily because of the wide continuum of donor levels. Grassroots giving is certainly a major part of our overall IPTAY annual campaign. Also, major and leadership gifts are a vital aspect of developing a competitive total sports program in the new Atlantic Coast Conference. IPTAY donors have provided nearly $200 million dollars to support student athletes since 1934! This year we begin our 75th anniversary which makes us the oldest athletic fund raising organization in the nation.
Now: The Ticket Allocation Process
Now I would like to discuss some of the current issues we face as we process the ticket requests. Let’s review the process on how the IPTAY Seat Equity Plan was applied. First and foremost is the foundation to the plan; every IPTAY Donor had the opportunity to contribute the appropriate amount to maintain their seats. Approximately, 70% of our donors who were impacted by the IPTAY Seat Equity Plan increased their level to either retain their seats, be eligible for another seating area or to improve their parking opportunities.
As we processed all the ticket applications, this critical fact was an important element. Secondly, the number of donors that qualify for what would be considered “prime seats” drastically outweighed the actual number of seats available in these premium areas. Communication is a vital part of any plan and we want to be sure our donors understand that seats must be available in any desired area for the donor to be assigned those certain seats. The process has and will continue to be two-fold, eligibility and availability! Because we chose to embrace the concept supporting long term donors, we could not create a system of simple availability through increased giving.
When seats in any section were NOT secured through increased giving, and thus became available, they were assigned by IPTAY level and then priority points within that level. The unknown at the inception of the IPTAY Seat Equity Plan was the number of donors or seat holders who would increase their giving to maintain their seats. However, donors who did increase their contributions had an opportunity to maintain or improve their parking.
Once we received all the ticket applications, the allocation process began and through a three- month window, the Athletic Ticket Office read every request submitted. We knew this part of the process would be long and arduous, but we believe it was critical to navigate the process and ensure the IPTAY Seat Equity Plan be applied appropriately. At the same time, the athletic ticket office created a report that listed each donor, their IPTAY level, points within the level and sorted it in descending order.
The seating requests varied, but many wanted to consolidate tickets into groups of six or eight. With many donors keeping their seats, the majority of open seats are in twos and fours. By the time the assignment process has worked its way through the Howard ($2100.00) and the Tiger ($1400.00) levels, almost all the lower level seating had been allocated to donors at higher levels.
As we stated, after the football ticket renewal period, we examined the open seats that became available to IPTAY Donors on a priority basis. These seats were opened up from either an IPTAY Donor making the choice not to renew their specific seats or they just wanted to give up their seats and move to a lower value per seat area, if it was available. As you can see, over 2,256 seats became available between the 30 yard-lines.
$700 (Yellow) = 753 seats $500 (Gray) = 1,503 seats $350 (Orange) = 2,069 seats $140 (Red) = 2,206 seats $70 (Purple) = 3,506
Keep in mind that the Heisman level ordered a total 2,813 seats, so there were not even enough tickets to actually fill all of their orders with the seats in the $700 and $500 areas and many of the seats did not fit their specific request or may have been too low in Memorial Stadium.
To provide an idea of the demand for the prime seats in Memorial Stadium, the majority of the requests were for the south lower deck, specifically in sections UE and UF. In those sections alone, only 39 seats opened up in UF and 53 seats opened in UE. We ran out of those seats at the Heisman level and were still getting requests for these seats at the $1,400 IPTAY level, so the demand greatly outweighed the supply in many cases and many increased their IPTAY level for a chance at sections like these.
There are two critical things to remember at this point in the process. A significant number of IPTAY Donors contribute more than what the IPTAY Seat Equity Plan set as a value per seat donation; and secondly, the number of IPTAY Donors that qualify for what would be considered “Prime Seats”, drastically outweighed the actual number of seats in those specific “Prime Areas”. When looking back, we do think that there might be some IPTAY Donors who did not understand that, first the seats have to be available when we get to specific IPTAY Donors level. Obviously, it is not as easy as looking at the map with the price breakdown and saying, “since I want two fifty yard-line seats, I will donate $1,400 so I should not have a problem getting those.”
It is important to note that at no time was it promised that anyone would be guaranteed better seats, it was guaranteed that seats that became available, would be assigned by IPTAY Level and Priority Points within that level. At the initiation of the IPTAY Seat Equity Plan, no one knew how many IPTAY Donors would retain their seats. Also, we did not know how many IPTAY Donors would increase their level of giving in hopes to improve their seating and parking situation. Although, it is also important to remember that an IPTAY Donor who is sitting in the upper deck could consider moving to the lower deck near the goal line as an improvement, while an IPTAY Donor sitting in the lower deck may consider moving six seats closer to the 50-yard line an improvement.
Out of the 11,815 season ticket purchasers who buy nearly 58,000 season tickets, there were 10,226 (86%) requests for change. This very high volume combined with the significant numbers that increased the giving levels drove the ticket allocation and assignment process. Thus, our seat equity plan is truly driven by donor eligibility and availability. It is an internal process that has become very competitive. We had 16,143 donors in 2007 and in 2008 we have 16,199 donors which is a 0.3% increase. This is a remarkable testament to the loyalty and support of our donors (especially in an IPTAY Seat Equity Plan implementation year). Additionally, the demand is as strong as ever for season tickets as we are very close to our record sales of last year’s 58,000. The Alabama game is sold out and we are all very excited about the entire 2008 season.
NUMBER OF DONORS
The same took place when looking at the number of 2008 Season Tickets that were ordered from each level. Noted below are the actual numbers.. The number of IPTAY Donors in this chart are only Donors that ordered season football tickets.
As I indicated, Seat Equity is not new to college athletics. However, our IPTAY membership has demonstrated that we plan to compete with the nation in providing the resources necessary to make our Athletic Department successful.
The number of donors from 2007 to 2008 has actually slightly increased and this is uncharacteristic according to other institutions who have implemented a Seat Equity Program. Another point of interest that truly demonstrates the loyalty of Clemson is the increase came from within our IPTAY membership. Although we had over 1100 new donors, the majority of those donors joined at the $700 level or below.
Indeed the future of Clemson and IPTAY is quite bright. We hope this article provides an understanding of the process for implementation of the IPTAY seat equity plan. Again we thank each and every one of our donors that increased their levels. We also appreciate the support of all those who support our Tigers!
October 24, 2020
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