Paper or plastic?
The campus ID card is replacing the paper ticket for entrance to sporting events and other activities at universities across the country.
One of the more elaborate systems comes from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, which was one of the first schools to move their paper football tickets to the campus card. That means a student only has to show the campus ID to gain entrance to a football game.
But many schools offer similar services, some pre-dating Alabama’s heralded program. The reasoning is simple: it’s easier to manage, keeps seats full, students happy and gives staff an overview of how many students are expected at any one game.
The methods used for ensuring students get their campus card-based sports tickets range from basic first-come, first-served solutions to lottery-based systems.
Bama went the ticketless route in 2008, enabling students to access their tickets online. Originally called MyFootballTicket, the program was renamed this year to simply MyTickets since it now covers a host of other events as well, says Jeanine Brooks, director of the university’s Action Card.
While the number of students the school can accommodate in its stadium hasn’t changed–it has 17,000 seats in its student section–the number of students eligible for a ticket has grown from 27,000 to 33,000 in recent years.
The school rewrote the ticketing program when it moved from Blackboard Unix to Blackboard Transact, says Brooks. “We added new functionality, moved it to the campus portal (MyBama) and changed the name.”
The portal is directly interfaced with Blackboard Transact and didn’t require any special integration, says Jeff Staples, vice president for market development at Blackboard.
In the spring, students can reserve a ticket package covering all the home games in the fall. Once they get the tickets they then show up for the game and swipe their card to gain entrance. If they don’t want to attend the game, they can let the university know and their ticket will be added to a pool for distribution to another ticket seeker. Alternately, the student can opt to transfer the ticket directly to a student of their choosing.
One of the most notable changes is that the university now penalizes students who obtain a ticket but don’t show up for the game. It’s based on a point system. All students who have a positive numeral one in their campus card record are eligible for a ticket for the next home game. If they have a ticket but don’t show up, that positive numeral becomes negative.
“Students only receive a ticket the week of the game. Since we have such high demand, students who do not use their ticket and neglect to donate it or transfer to someone else are penalized 1.5 points,” says Brooks. “If you have more than three (penalty points) you’re not eligible for post season games or for tickets next year,” adds Brooks.
Those on the wait list can be notified as late as game day that they’re able to attend the game because someone else has donated their ticket to the pool, says Brooks. “As long as you see your ticket balance is equal to one, you can show up at the game,” says Brooks. “Every student who wanted to go to the game has gotten into the game. It may not be until game day but we’ve been able to accommodate everyone.”
She says the system has been a success. “It allows us to manage a limited resource of seats in the most effective way. Students have been very complimentary of the system.”
At Villanova University, basketball is just as popular as football is at Alabama. Villanova’s arena has a student section that seats just 1,500 but more than twice that number want to attend games. In fact, of Villanova’s 8,000 undergraduate students, about 3,500 want the tickets. To deal with the issue the school deployed a ticketing lottery system from its campus card provider, The CBORD Group.
Every student starts the season with 100 points, explains John Bonass, operations manager for University Card Systems at Villanova. Point totals adjust based on three factors: winning a lottery and attending the game, entering a lottery and not winning, and winning a lottery and not attending the game, says Bonass.
Here is the breakdown in point changes for each event:
- Winning lottery and attending: 30 Points will be added to a student’s weight.
- Entering lottery and not winning: 30 Points will be added to student’s weight.
- Winning lottery and not attending: Deduction of 40 points from a student’s weight.
“If you win a ticket and attend the game, it increases your chances for the next game because we want to reward loyal fans,” says Bonass.
Student government wanted the weighted process to make it fair for all students. “If you win a ticket and don’t use it your chances of getting a ticket for the next time go down,” says Bonass.
Originally, Villanova created it’s own lottery system but after some problems, Bonass approached CBORD. “We were having issues with our lottery process and we went to CBORD and asked them if they could create one,” says Bonass. “We worked with a development team and our student government to design the process.”
CBORD was already on campus working with the school on a Web interface for laundry, says Bob Lemley, CBORD’s director of software development. “They outlined what they needed, we took their proposal and developed the solution.”
The idea for the weighted system came from student government. “You first need to sign up for the lottery. There’s a registration period for each set of games,” says Lemley. “If you win tickets to undesirable games in your package it’s to your benefit to attend all of the games in order to improve your chances later in the season.”
Then there’s a transfer period where the student can give his ticket to someone else or throw his ticket back into the pool, says Lemley.
At the arena, student ID cards are read via door readers or handheld devices to verify that access should be granted.
Before the CBORD solution, no one knew how the weighted system worked and the point process was confusing, says Bonass.
The lottery system also did away with the problem of students selling tickets online, says Bonass. “The student government association loves it and administrators love it,” says Bonass. “We can see how many sign up for the game which allows us to move manpower around based on people who will be entering the building,” adds Bonass.
Texas Tech University in Lubbock has been using its ID card for football tickets since 2004. Students pay an athletic fee per semester that, among other perks, grants them access to football games. But it’s a first-come, first-served basis meaning that for the big games, some students could end up camping out the night before the game.
Still it has only been an issue for one game a couple years ago, says Dolores Harper, director of the university’s ID system. “We’ve never closed the gate,” she says. And even if the student section is full, the school has the capacity to open up a grassy area overlooking the stadium.
This year, more than 28,000 students paid the athletic fee, says Harper. That’s more than double the 12,000-seat capacity for the student section.
When students pay the athletic fee, their record is flagged indicating eligibility to attend football games. The student swipes the card for admission at one of the 15 readers at the stadium. Each is monitored to make sure the student isn’t passing the card to someone else in line and to make sure the card is valid, says Harper. A green light on the reader will tell the checker that the student can enter.
“When a student comes up to the reader and the card doesn’t work, we have a little booth set up with access to the university ID system where we can look up the record to determine the reason for the decline. They may not have paid the athletic fee or they may not be enrolled,” says Harper.
There’s also a counter attached to the ID system so that when a card is swiped, it increments up so the school knows when the student section is full. “Students are really good about coming in early before the game starts. They know if they come in late their chances are not good,” says Harper.
Montana follows suit
Operating in a similar fashion to Texas Tech is the University of Montana, Missoula. Their students also pay an athletic fee as part of their tuition, which then flags their card to indicate eligibility for football games, says Maggie Linder, program coordinator at the university.
“On Monday a student can go to the student center and have the card swiped, indicating intention to attend next weekend’s game,” says Linder. The athletics department has people at each student entrance to verify that the student has a ticket and that the photo matches the individual entering the stadium.
Again like Texas Tech, it’s a first-come, first-served basis, says Linder. The school has 15,000 students and 3,300 tickets for them. This year the university added a season ticket option to the four-year-old program. Students can pay an extra $50 to have the new privilege added to the ID card.
Using the campus ID as a ticket enables the school to be more efficient. More importantly, it ensures that the student section is always full to provide that sought after home team advantage.