I read Cory Giger's article (June 20) regarding Graham Spanier and the new STEP program at Penn State.
Like many fans, I am a season-ticket holder who will be adversely affected by these new changes. So it was with great interest that I read Spanier's reasoning behind this program, other than the obvious motivation of greed.
Spanier makes a great superficial argument. He wants the football program to continue supporting the entire sports program at Penn State. He does not want to cut back on sports nor does he want to spend money from the main budget that would take away from the academic spending. We all know the cost of operating any business is going to grow, and it would be naive not to expect the athletic budget at PSU to increase.
But what Spanier failed to note is that the football program at Penn State has already been supporting the entire sports program for decades - and has done so at a profit, without this new STEP program. In the example cited, a season-ticket holder who now pays $400 (for four seats) will be required to pay $2400. That's a 500 percent increase and is higher for 50-yard line seats.
I seriously doubt the athletic budget is going to escalate that much in the near future. Even if they are planning for the expense of a new coach to replace Joe - and Spanier said he would not spend over $2 million (annually) on a football coach anyway - such an increase is certainly unwarranted at this time.
In the end, the only real reason to change things is because it is overdue, and we have to keep up with other schools. But we don't even buy our recruits SUVs or give housing to athletes' families like some schools. Are we going to start these practices because we're overdue?
Increasing seat prices from $100 per seat to $400 or $600 is simply fiscally irresponsible in this economic climate and threatens to alienate one of the most loyal fan bases in sports. Many fans I have talked to are not renewing under the new system. Is Penn State depending on the waiting list? Funny thing about that list: These are the people that to date have not donated enough money to earn the right to buy tickets. Do we really expect them to be able to afford these new prices?
A more rational approach would have been a true "step" program with smaller, more manageable, increases phased in over a decade or more. The Nittany Lion Club just raised its giving levels a couple years ago.
I fear that this STEP program will be a disaster. State College is not comparable to many of the other programs with higher fees. According to Wikipedia, the 2000 census for other Big Ten schools has Columbus at 711,000, Ann Arbor at 114,00, Madison at 208,000, and even Iowa City at 67,000. Compare this to State College at 38,000.
Most of the fans in the stadium travel some distance to get there. Most of the games - particularly the big games - are on TV, and who cares if you miss Indiana State anyway? A fair number of season-ticket holders ditch less desirable games already because of lack of interest and escalating travel expenses. Fans will purchase scalped tickets for the games they really want to see and spend less than the cost of a season ticket, bloated with unwanted games and seat-licensing fees.
Penn State thought it found out how enduring their fans were when they weathered the 2000-2004 years. But the fallout of this ill-conceived plan may make a 6-4 loss to Iowa seem like a day at the beach.
I hope that I am wrong.
Todd Sponsler is an occasional contributor to Voice of the Fan. He resides in Duncansville.