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The Golden Rule: There was a better way to distribute scarce tickets amid 2020’s lost season

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Take the L and give them to the students and diehard Gumps

TOPSHOT-AUSTRALIA-ECONOMY-COMMODITIES-MARKETS-METAL-GOLD Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images

The golden rule — no, the other one: He who makes the gold, rules.

And such is the case with the University of Alabama’s ticket purchasing priorities for the Season of ‘Rona.

Today, the Athletic Department released its information to receive tickets in a stadium that will have exceptionally limited seasoning capacity — just 20%. Thus any solution was always was going to anger at least 80% of the ticket-holding fan base.

The TL; DR version is as follows:

  • 20% capacity.
  • If you have more than X Tide Totals points, congratulations! You make the cut list and can request four (4) tickets to the entire season. (Yes, I know the number of pernts you need. No, I can’t tell you how many pernts. And you probably can’t afford to get there anyway. #SadLaughter.)
  • If you have fewer than X points, womp womp. You can request two (2) tickets to one of the two (2) mini-plans.
  • Everything must be completed online — and you only have until Sept. 7th to make a decision. If you fail to do so, you’ll automatically be dropped from the queue.
  • If you’re eligible for seats, you’ll be assigned to one of five tiers, and those prices will reflect the Tide Pride ticket to ride as well as the tickets themselves. This lump sum may be lower or higher than what you paid in previous years (I’m guessing for most, it will be higher.)
  • No individual seat sales; no group sales.
  • Priority to other seating will be given by seniority and tenure for the Lettermen / A-Club, for the faculty and staff, and for students.
  • If you opt-out, then you allegedly will not be penalized for future seating. However, the University wants you to know you that even if you opt-out, you can donate the seat money you have already paid as either a partial or full gift to the Crimson Core!
  • If you cancel your tickets and have a partial or full refund, and then make no election, then your ducats will automatically go to the Crimson Core fund. That is the same for people who only qualify for a mini-plan.
  • And, if you must get a refund or cancel your ticket, then you’re gonna be waiting...about 6 weeks.
  • Finally, if The ‘Rona flares up and a game gets cancelled, then your account will be credited for such sums. Yes, you will have the option to donate it to the Crimson Core fund, in case you were worrying about missing another opportunity to give Alabama more money for services not received and which will not be tax-deductible!

I think there are two ways to look at the seating plan here.

The first is the conservative approach that Greg Byrne, Brenda Vaughn, and Chris Besanceney took — these are our big-dollar donors, reward them. Don’t rock the boat for our biggest benefactors.

It’s defensible, sure. It is, dare I say, the expected institutional response. And that is what makes it a fairly lame option in a lost season. It is also one insulates those with means from the effects of COVID-19 on something as banal as our entertainment. A pandemic is a shared societal problem, but — as in so many other spheres of public life — the UA seating scheme is one that is emphatically not a shared burden.

He who has the gold, rules.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 08 CFP National Championship
LIVE SHOT OF THE 40-YARD LINE IN THE SECOND QUARTER OF ANY ALABAMA GAME! By all means, let’s give them more seating opportunities!
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The second way to address it seems to me to be a better one.

It is an approach that is cognizant of Alabama’s status as a billion-dollar franchise, its decade-long waiting list, its giant institutional and individual investors (who most assuredly aren’t going anywhere), its massive television deals and merch sales, and its ability to survive a one-year hit (or a 9-month deprivation of that backyard roller coaster for the football complex).

Give them to the students.

That’s right, just give them away. With construction, you’re not getting more than 16,000-18,000 in there anyway, so let’s have some SEC Lord of the Flies. Want a hostile, revved environment that makes Death Valley look as restrained as a Southern Baptist wedding on an August afternoon? That’ll do it.

Like the Old Right Field, make Bryant-Denny a students’ paradise...if only for a handful of games.

Then, if there are remainders, open the stadium up to individual ticket purchases or free transfers. In short, in a stadium played at 20% capacity, those that most want to be there; those most willing to undertake the risks; those ordinarily squeezed out of the process; some of the most vocal and rabid fans — they get a seat, metaphorically and otherwise.

Do we really want to see 7,200 gray-hairs with toilet paper boxes on their heads politely clapping until they leave midway through the second-quarter...like they do literally every week?

Such an approach will necessarily require coming to terms with the orgy of spending that Alabama has committed itself to over the last decade as well. As was succinctly stated in The Outlaw Josey Wales, “a man’s got to know his limitations.” And here that will require a tacit admission that you’re a nonprofit entity that has blown through cash like an 18-year-old Marine with an enlistment bonus. And, like that Marine after blowing his kicker, it’s time to sack up and just learn to live with the financial hit. You’re going to take a bloodbath this season. It will take a while to get back on your feet. And while buying the Great Value ravioli may feel frugal and Very Adult this week, it does nothing to address the large-scale thinking and future adjustment that needs to be done instead.

Squeezing the last bit of blood out of this turnip pales in comparison to the goodwill, PR, and eventual donations we will get from the next generation of Tide Pride members. Our short-term pain will be repaid several-fold by rewarding our future alumni. If I’m a high school senior thinking about Alabama in a time of declining attendance, and knowing that UA has my back amid an abnormal, disruptive Black Swan event, such a gesture would absolutely color my perception. These students are, after all, those who are paying tens of thousands of dollars for an education, for their housing, for keeping the town afloat...and for paying your salaries.

At the end of the day, while a business, college football is still a game played by the students, for the benefit of the students, at an institution that exists solely because of the students, as an adjunct to their collegiate experience. They don’t need you. You need them. Thus, perhaps we should begin viewing them in a manner other than as a lost revenue opportunity or as a demographic to be tut-tutted to and lectured down at.

This would have been a very good way to reward students for the incalculable turbulence their lives are undergoing so as to attend the University. Instead, Alabama lost another opportunity to show that we value them.

Roll Tide...and give ‘em hell, kids.