on September 1, 2007 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

What does Seat Equity Plan mean for Clemson’s loyal following?

What does Seat Equity Plan mean for Clemson’s loyal following?

Recently, The Daily Journal/Daily Messenger sat down with Clemson University’s Associate Athletic Director for Marketing and Sponsorship Tim Match to discuss in his own words the 2008 IPTAY Seat Equity Plan for Memorial Stadium and what it means to Clemson University and its loyal following.

DJM: What is the seat equity plan? How did it come about and why?

Mr. Match: We kept getting that number one question – “If I want to join IPTAY where can I sit?” Well, you know, people could come and join IPTAY at whatever level and I think it is important to know that whatever level they have, we could only put people in the upper deck and that was a struggle. So we spent a significant amount of time, over 18-24 months, and we talked to a lot of other schools and then after talking to schools, we had to look at ourselves. We did a lot of homework. From that homework, we knew who was sitting where. When you have some people that have been very loyal, long-time, great Clemson fans, but giving at the low level sitting in some of your premium seats, and then you have some very loyal people that have been giving larger amounts, sitting in not premium seats, you sort of had to take a look and say “is this a good business decision?” In everything we did, you have say is this a good decision for Clemson.

DJM: How can you help those loyal IPTAY donors understand that the Seat Equity Plan was made in the best interests of Clemson University and its future?

Mr. Match: That is one of the most difficult things you have to struggle with. You really do. That’s why we tried to keep it simple. What I think we did was look at probably 10 to 15 different opportunities in which to institute some type of plan and we felt that this was the most equitable and fair, but the number one thing I think is important is that we are providing people the opportunity to maintain their seats at a reasonable level. We’re not throwing cold water on someone. We are sitting and saying if you’d like to maintain those seats, here’s what the current value is. The guy that has been sitting there giving $70 a year, is going to have to increase his opportunity, but he is still going to be given that opportunity. It might just not be in those seats. I think that is the other important cog in this wheel. Death Valley is an awesome place and truly there aren’t any bad seats in this place. You can still sit in the lower level at a $70 level. You can’t get that at many other places. I think it is important to know that we are not re-seating Death Valley and we are giving people the opportunity to maintain their current seats. The last thing pertains to longevity and loyalty. It pertains to the IPTAY points system. It’s based on the number of years you have been in IPTAY, your level, and the cumulative giving. You get a point for each year that you are in there. That is how we are rewarding loyalty. What we are going to do is when you sit and say, “Okay you want to move to a different section, it’s going to be level, but it’s going to be points within that level. That’s how we are trying to reward longevity as well as giving that person the opportunity to maintain their current seats for a reasonable value.

DJM: So, basically you are telling the people that there doesn’t have to be change, unless you make it a change, correct? It all depends on what the people are willing to give, right?

Mr. Match: Each individual IPTAY donor is going to have to make that decision. We are not kicking people out of their seats. I think that’s the biggest thing. I think that’s where we can hang our hat. It’s about equity. It’s not about the dollar signs because if it was about the dollar signs, we would have gone about this a different route.

DJM: For the fans who don’t want to read all these pages regarding the new procedure, please explain how the plan would affect the average Joe who is paying $140 a year?

Mr. Match: I think a better example is let’s say that the $140 IPTAY donor is purchasing two seats and those two seats are located on the goal line. That person is not going to have to pay one more dollar to IPTAY. But let’s take that same person. Now say he is sitting on the 50-yard line. He is going to have to increase his donation in order to maintain those seats, because they are considered premium seats.

DJM: You have a deadline of February 15th to get half of your donations in, correct?

Mr. Match: Yes, 50 percent. What that will do is trigger a season ticket application. The difficult time is going to come when we have to speak to many different donors, but I think we are going to be prepared for that. We know that there are going to be some time issues. We are going to try to give ourselves enough time to give those people the opportunity that want to improve, want to maintain their seats, or possibly move to a different area.

DJM: When did the IPTAY board and Clemson first realize that they were going to have to make a change?

Mr. Match: It’s not about making money, but I am not going to sit here and say false things. We are going to generate some money. To what extent? No one has any idea. I can’t say when we started thinking about this, because that was on an individual level, but I think what opened our eyes was when we found out that there were people sitting on the 50-yard line who aren’t IPTAY donors. We didn’t do a good job of following up and making sure they were IPTAY donors and those kinds of things. That is probably what opened our eyes. IPTAY is the grandfather. Everyone models its fundraising around IPTAY. The people that started IPTAY as it pertains to parking, as it pertains to how tickets are distributed, the paying of the scholarships, were extremely smart, ridiculously smart. But, sometimes, I think that over time, things slide. At the end of the day, after 20-something years, the thought is that maybe we need to revisit these things. All we are really doing is re-instituting some of the things that IPTAY started.

DJM: What do you feel needs to be said that maybe hasn’t been portrayed by the media all that well?

Mr. Match: I doubt the media has been given the opportunity to see a presentation of here’s where we were and here’s what we did. Most of the time, it’s about here is what we are going to do. We thought it was critical for the media, as well as our fans, to see our homework, to see what we’ve done, and to understand that this decision wasn’t made overnight. This decision was a long drawn out process. We involved a tremendous amount of people. The IPTAY board was very involved in this as was the president. We gave the presentation to the board of trustees, to the upstate delegation, the administrative council. I think we have gotten what we wanted to get out there to the media and to the fans.

DJM: What are some of the misconceptions that you are hearing?

Mr. Match: I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that corporations are buying up all of the season tickets. Actually, when you look at all of our corporate sponsors, it is less than three percent of our total season package. I think that is important to know because there are stadiums in our conference that do have empty seats because corporations do buy those tickets and that is why you see a lot of them empty. The other misconception that I think people need to know about is that there are very few people coming off the street and giving IPTAY $10,000 gifts. What people are doing is increasing from the $7,000 level to the $10,000 level, from $2,800 to the $10,000. That is where the movement is.

DJM: Is there anything else you would like to add that maybe wasn’t brought up here today or during last week’s press conference?

Mr. Match: When we started the process approximately 18-20 months ago, the objectives of the IPTAY Seat Equity Plan as requested and approved by the IPTAY Board were: 1) Align Clemson with other BCS schools; 2) Create the least amount of headaches for all by providing fair and equitable opportunities to maintain the donor’s current seats; 3) Provide opportunities for higher giving donors the opportunity to purchase lower level seats; 4) Re-evaluate the stadium every five years; 5) generate revenue for IPTAY/Athletic Department. We attempted to adhere to these guidelines throughout the entire process. The other key component is that through our data analysis, only 37.1 percent of the IPTAY Donors (3,420 donors) who maintain seats in Memorial Stadium could be financially impacted by the 2008 IPTAY Seat Equity Plan, if in fact they purchase similar seats to that of the 2007 season, while 62.9 percent of the IPTAY Donors (5,771 donors) will not be impacted.