Maryland tickets now rate a premium


Because of incorrect information supplied by the university, the number of basketball season-ticket holders who are not members of the Terrapin Club was wrong in Wednesday's editions. The correct number is 350.

The Sun regrets the error.

In Wednesday's editions, a caption incorrectly stated the number of general admission tickets available to University of Maryland students for basketball games. The correct number is 4,000.

* The Sun regrets the error.

With two consecutive seasons in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16, Maryland has returned to college basketball prominence. Now, the university's athletic department hopes to use that success to help dig out of a $1 million scholarship deficit.

Because demand for basketball tickets has grown, a new policy has been instituted for next season: Anyone interested in buying season tickets first must pay at least $100 to join the Terrapin Club, Maryland's 48-year-old athletic booster organization.

"We are starting to come back. [Coach] Gary Williams has done a fantastic job with the program, and this is something we've got to do," said Gib Romaine, acting director of the Terrapin Club. "We have to bite the bullet. This is something that should have been done a long time ago."

Linking season tickets to a contribution is not an unusual practice in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Four other ACC schools have such policies. And in recent seasons, Maryland fans wishing to buy season tickets for floor seating at Cole Field House have been required to donate from $600 to $2,000.

The money raised by the Terrapin Club donation will be used to pay for athletic scholarships, for which the school receives no state funding.

Boosters can receive greater ticket-buying privileges depending on the size of their Terrapin Club donations. For $100, a member gets the right to purchase two basketball season tickets, unlimited football tickets and preferred parking for football. As a donation approaches $10,000, the member is entitled to purchase up to eight basketball season tickets, ACC tournament seats, NCAA basketball tournament tickets and football postseason bowl tickets.

However, people who already had more than two basketball season tickets and were not Terrapin Club members will be able to keep all of their seats for the $100 minimum club donation. There are 150 basketball season-ticket holders who are not members of the Terrapin Club.

For athletic director Debbie Yow, the scholarship deficit is part of a much larger problem. She said the Maryland athletic department is $6.8 million in the red and has not balanced a budget since 1984. Yow said she is dedicated to keeping all 24 men's and women's sports at Maryland, and she believes fund-raisers such as the Terrapin Club can help cut into the debt. But Yow does not want to do it at the expense of the fans.

"I do not think of season-ticket holders as commodities," Yow said. "I want to build a personal trusting relationship with the fans. I am not a person who can say this is just supply and demand and right now we're in high demand. When you do that, you treat people as commodities.

"People will be willing to pay the price now that the program is at the top, but if we ever stub our toe, they'll drop out of the program. I want long-term, stable relationships."

One such long-term fan, Steven Dyal, said he isn't happy with the new policy.

"I don't like having $100 extorted out of me for season tickets," said Dyal, a six-year season-ticket holder who holds Maryland degrees for undergraduate, postgraduate and medical studies. "But I can't stop going. I'm going to pay the bounty. I called [last week] to order the tickets."

Yow said: "We have no state funding [for the scholarships] and it's up to us to raise that money and we have limited sources to raise that money. How could a person see the expectation for a $100 gift to the athlete scholarship fund as extortion?"

Dyal originally joined the Terrapin Club last year as a $100 member, which earned him the right to park close to Cole. This year, the $100 will get him a little less.

"In this year's new benefit array, you get on a mailing list for $100. You don't really get anything for $200, and it's $600 for [priority basketball] parking," he said. "Heck with this, I'm not going to pay $600 to park."

Other ACC schools place an even higher premium on basketball season tickets.

If you want North Carolina season tickets, you may need a second mortgage. The Tar Heels require a $40,000 donation for two seats (which stay in a family for one generation) or $75,000 for four seats. In January, UNC is increasing the donations to $50,000 and $100,000.

For Georgia Tech season tickets, nonalumni must make a $10,000 donation through a point system that attributes one point to every $100 donation. Alumni also must meet the 100-point plateau, but they get points for buying football tickets, lettering in sports and giving other nonfiscal support. Duke projects it will require at least a $2,000 fee to order basketball season tickets. Virginia has a similar policy to Maryland's, with a $100 minimum donation.

Wake Forest, Clemson, N.C. State and Florida State do not attach any donation to the purchase of season tickets. However, boosters are given priority seating at most ACC schools.

Yow said schools such as Wake and Florida State make their money by charging more than $4,000 to purchase half-court or 50-yard-line season tickets, but Maryland requires only a $300 contribution for such seats.

"We are mild in comparison to our sister conference schools," Yow said. "However, to keep it in perspective, it is also new, and it's more than we ever required before. We believe we are acting in a very reasoned fashion. We are taking the opportunity to explain to season-ticket holders why we are doing what we are doing, and we hope they understand."

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