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Dead-of-Night Email Outlines New Student Ticket Procedures for Football

I'm not sure what to make of the latest Stanford Marketing mass email. It's either a really good thing or a really bad thing, depending on who you ask.

Around midnight this morning, the Marketing Department sent out an email to all students who previously used their SUID to get into a football game. In it, Marketing laid out some new rules for the Red Zone and student ticketing.

Apparently, the Red Zone will have a hard cap this year. Per the email, "all students will need to claim a ticket online for EACH GAME IN ADVANCE [emphasis added by me] in order to claim a ticket online for admission to the game." Translation: students can no longer simply walk-up to the stadium and scan their SUIDs for entrance to games.

Stanford Athletics claims that the process will better enable them to manage Red Zone capacity on a game-by-game basis while keeping the games free for students. As to how it keeps the games free, who knows, but free is free. The devil is always in the details, though.

Stanford students have a very limited time to claim tickets, beginning at 5PM the Tuesday before the game and ending on Friday just before midnight. Knowing how Stanford students are, I expect massive hits to GoStanford on Friday nights before leaving for their treks across the Row. Unfortunately for them, tickets are only available on a first-come, first-served basis, meaning if the Red Zone meets capacity, students are SOL unless Athletics expands the Red Zone (as they did for USC this past season) or students buy single-game tickets.

The other downer here is how students will get their tickets. For the USC game last year, expecting a capacity Red Zone section, the Athletic Department had students sign-up for tickets for the week prior to the game. Once they were signed up, the Ticket Office had students print a ticket at their computers to guarantee entrance to the game. The unfortunate effect of this, at least for Stanford Athletics, was that demand was so high that a secondary market hit the distribution lists once capacity was reached. Enterprising students sought buyers of their tickets while students who waited too long and weren't able to get their free ticket looked for the best deals on whatever email lists they were on.

To combat that this year, when students claim their tickets online, the ticket is actually loaded to their SUID itself, as opposed to a print-at-home ticket. Similar to how the 6th Man Club operates, the only person who will be able to use the ticket is the owner of the SUID itself. Effectively this eliminates the secondary market because if Stanford does what they (have threatened to) do at men's basketball games, if a person, student or not, is caught with a SUID that does not belong to them, that SUID will be confiscated and the person with the SUID turned over to Stanford police. Ouch.

Not to dwell on the negative, though, as I said, I don't know how to take this information. Is it a sign that Stanford expects a lot of walk-up and single-game sales in addition to the 25,000+ season tickets it's already sold? Is it trying to maximize the amount of seats sold at the expense of the student body who get free admission? What was the impetus behind changing a system that worked in the past to there now must be a ticketing system for all games and not just the marquee games? What's the point of the loyalty system that awards tickets for Big Game and Oregon if some students risk being denied entry because the Red Zone reached theoretical capacity prior to the day of the game, potentially causing them to fall short of the necessary points cutoff for tickets for those marquee games?

My gut says that this is a good thing for Stanford. It seems to say that while only half of the stadium is sold to season ticket holders, the other half has been experiencing decent single-game sales and the Athletic Department is wondering how much to expand or contract the Red Zone as a result. For some games, the Red Zone went only as far as sections 105 and 106 next to the band, while for other games it expanded all the way to section 103 (and I think for Big Game, all the way to the tunnel). That remaining southern endzone seating has been used for young alumni seating and general public seating in various years after the reconfiguration of sidelines and seating in 2008. Being able to definitively set where the Red Zone ends will help the Ticket Office better place single-game/general admission tickets.

At the same time, there's this feeling that this is done only to, again, maximize the number of seats sold on the lower deck. Call me a pessimist, but it wouldn't be the first time that Stanford has sacrificed student experiences for the sake of saving (or making, in this case) a buck. And I'm not just talking about the Athletic Department, too.

Like I said, though, games are still free, which is something that many, many, many Stanford students couldn't say prior to 2006. I suppose Stanford students, even if they're inconvenienced by having to go to GoStanford before the game to get a ticket, will do this with only limited grumbling.

In any case, the new student ticketing rules take effect for all students beginning this Tuesday, August 30th, for the San Jose State game. This means all you Chemistry Department TAs that are on campus need to log on for tickets beginning next week for your requisite sketchy Saturday interactions with the undergrads this year.