Mac Engel

Texas football shows the future of premium price gouging

Texas quarterback Shane Buechele, seen here against Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in October 2017, is competing with Sam Ehlinger for the Longhorns' starting job in 2018..
Texas quarterback Shane Buechele, seen here against Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in October 2017, is competing with Sam Ehlinger for the Longhorns' starting job in 2018.. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Texas' non-conference scheduling, and pricing, will be the model of the future of college football, and it's going to drill you right in your wallet.

Praise/blame UT and former TCU director of athletics Chris Del Conte for some of this.

This week, Del Conte announced the future of college football when UT agreed to play a home-and-home football series against the University of Alabama.

"The future of college football is going to be big, premier matchups," Del Conte told me in a recent phone interview. "That's what you are going to see more and more of. That's what draws fans. It's what drives ratings."

Check that - it's the only thing that draws fans to sit in their seat inside the stadium.

Around the same time UT announced its series against Bama that will be played in 2022 and '23, Texas also sent out a notice that the only way to guarantee a ticket to its home game against USC on Sept. 15 is to buy an entire season package.

These colossus games of Godzilla vs. King Kong are fun. They pack the place. They are expensive. And now they will require more than the price of but one game.

Every time we think sports has reached its limit on what it can ask of its fans, they ask for one more dollar.

Texas is basically saying it knows you have no interest in its game the previous week against Tulsa, which are the types of games coaches love, and need. You can't guarantee that bowl-bid by playing Bama; playing Iowa State makes you rich.

UT knows there is no chance of filling its 100,000-seat Darrell K. Memorial Stadium for its game against TU. Or Iowa State. Or Baylor.

The only way to ensure a ticket sale to that trio of duds is to attach USC.

"Premium pricing" for certain games had been a part of college athletics for more than 20 years; now, for one game, you have to buy every, other game, too.

This new model is akin to the ancient days of music listeners buying an entire CD full of 10 songs when really they are only listening to two or three hits.

UT's 2018 home schedule features Tulsa, USC, TCU, Baylor, West Virginia and Iowa State.

For fans, it means their team will be forced to schedule somebody other than Liberty, Lamar and Louisiana Tech. For that we all say, Thank God.

TCU had one of those premiere dates lined up when Del Conte, back when he was the AD at the school, brokered a home-and-home with Ohio State for 2018 and '19.

He convinced Ohio State into not only leaving the state of Ohio for a non-conference game, but playing a road date in a venue that seats just under 50,000. And in return his team would play at The Horseshoe the following year.

We know how this finished: Del Conte wisely parlayed this "series" into just one-game to be played at 7 p.m. on Sept. 15 at Jerry World. In return for giving up this home-and-home, TCU fans lost on the chance to see one of the nation's premier brands in their yard, but its athletic department received a $5 million check.

But, unlike UT fans who will watch their team play at their home field, TCU fans get the shaft in its premier, prime-time date against Ohio State. The OSU game is not part of the TCU season ticket package, and thus fans will have to shell out considerably more cash to watch their premier game.

Now that he's the AD at the University of Texas, do not expect Del Conte to sell a series with Alabama for $5 million. Maybe $5 billion.

Between TV's need for games it can market and sell, and the AD's desire to sell out stadiums, this is the best way to ensure both parties generate the type of revenue it needs to maintain the horrible business model of college athletics.

As a result, the days of coaches carefully scheduling Nobody Tech and We Need Your Check State, or the Gary Patterson model of artfully finding the team that is a name but not a bonafide threat, are slowly being priced out of the market.

We have seen the future, and that future is Godzilla versus King Kong, both home and away.

They are fun. They will pack the place. And they cost you an entire season.

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