Penn State is working on a new pricing structure for football season tickets that, effective in 2011, will in some cases increase the cost by 500 percent per seat.
Cutting to the chase: For many years, Penn State has charged Nittany Lion Club members a minimum of $100 per seat per season for the opportunity to purchase tickets. That goes for tickets on the 50-yard line or in the end zone.
The school has not yet announced specifics of the proposed arrangements, but according to a report in Sunday's Harrisburg Patriot-News, which school spokesman Greg Myford did not dispute in Monday's Mirror, PSU is considering raising the mandatory minimum to $600 between the 40-yard lines, $400 between the 40s and the goal lines and $200 in the end zone.
And you thought the health-care costs in this country are out of control.
This, remember, is per seat, per season.
Those who balk will be shown the end zone.
Most businesses have faced rising expenses, and Penn State is no different. And while no one likes when prices go up on anything, let alone entertainment, they accept and adjust when it's done in reasonable increments.
This does not seem to be a reasonable increment.
Penn State football takes pride in paying the freight for the school's 29 varsity sports as only football and men's basketball are profitable.
In the past 10 years, it has launched skyboxes and club seats at Beaver Stadium, at premium prices, but that apparently is not enough, and the university has now put Joe Lunchbucket in its cross hairs.
At what point does Penn State consider reducing a handful of sports to the club level?
The answer, obviously, is not yet.
Not if it can shake enough of you to double your football bill and, for example, change it from $2,160 for four seats on the 40 - at $55 per seat times eight home games plus the $400 for the "right" to watch these special teams - to $4,160.
Especially during these financially challenging times, Penn State should be partnering with the Nittany Nation and sharing the burden, not taxing it.
Just because for so many years the school decided not to address the fact that people in its best seats were paying the same as people in the end zone for the "right" to watch Eastern Illinois and Coastal Carolina and Florida International and Youngstown State and, in 2011, Indiana State, doesn't mean that all those people - some now on fixed incomes and having seen their personal investments dwindle - should have to swallow this increase in one full (or is it fool?) swoop.
Talk about sheep being herded toward the end zone.
And what about the timing?
After being the nation's best program in the 1980s, when it played for the national title three times and won it twice, Penn State has really only contended three times in 23 years - in 1994, when it had the best team in the country, regardless of what the polls say, 2005 when it lost in the last second at Michigan, and last year, before it looked past Iowa.
The coach is a month from birthday No. 83, schedules meekly, doesn't upset better opponents anymore and too often presides over an offense that burdens its defense.
And there's no publicly defined succession plan in place, though maybe this is an indication Graham Spanier plans to go outside the current staff for a more expensive replacement for Joe Paterno.
Either way, rest assured this new grandiose scheme wasn't hatched yesterday.
Many other big-name schools have already implemented something similar. Penn State, it's been documented, does not pay its coaches nearly as much as some of its peers and knows it can't maintain the status quo. It has fans in the end zone, through Nittany Lion Club donations well over the minimum, paying more than some on the 50.
Consequently, raising prices, even in these times, is not the issue as much as raising them so radically.
Compounding the matter is people paying an average of upwards of $125 per ticket will rightfully expect the team to score an offensive touchdown against Ohio State without needing replay, which in turn will heighten pressure on the players.
You don't charge this much and have fans say "aw, shucks," when Iowa blocks a punt.
Deciding to do this for 2011, when Alabama graces the non-conference schedule, was calculated as was the idea to launch before JoePa finally surrenders.
Clearly, many fans will surrender themselves, but that doesn't mean the university will lose money. In fact, when factoring the season-ticket waiting list of 600 along with the new revenue stream, Penn State will likely gain financially.
But at what price?
It will have angered its fan base - one of the most loyal in all of sports - and, in the process, it will have moved one step closer to sanctioning the professional sport that Penn State football has unfortunately become.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.