To Dan Radakovich: Charging for lower deck tickets means ruining a Clemson tradition

‘I hope you get 1,000 letters like this until you understand what you’re doing’

To Dan Radakovich:

I don’t expect you to ever see this, let alone read it, but I truly hope you get 1,000 letters like this every day until you fully understand what you are doing by introducing a football ticket fee.

Don’t get me wrong, I know this was not a decision made solely by you. But as our athletic director, you accept responsibility for all decisions made by the department, so this ultimately falls on your shoulders.

I love Clemson. I love everything about it and I spend eight months of every year waiting for football season to come back around because, in my opinion, that is when the Clemson family comes together as one more than any other time of the year. Seven times a year we are all joined together in and around Death Valley as one family, but the new student ticketing plan you are helping bring through is going to severely damage that feeling for a large portion of the student body.

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Sure, maybe this will be acceptable for future Clemson students, but for every other current Tiger out there, this is a low blow. A large number of IPTAY members are alumni, and they choose to pay for season tickets and more every year. That’s because they fell in love with this school and this team during their time as a student.

They all fell in love with Clemson and its traditions, and one of those traditions revolves around students being able to exchange time in a line – or this past year, time in online waiting rooms – for a free ticket to home games. Take away a tradition and you take away a reason for students to want to support the organization that took it from them in the first place.

Working three jobs along with taking classes, I make less than $20,000 a year. Ninety percent of that money goes towards paying for my tuition and housing so I can attend Clemson. Does it cover everything? Far from it. But it makes my loans more reasonable so I know I can handle them when I graduate. Nowadays I am the rule, not the exception, and I am on the lucky end of the rule at that.

Maybe $225 each year doesn’t sound like much to somebody who makes a salary of $750,000, (it’s only 0.03 percent of your salary) but to someone who would have to take out additional loans to pay for a lower deck ticket, this hurts.

I can imagine your counterargument: “the upper deck tickets – the 3,300 tickets in the upper deck – would remain free.” But if you’ve ever spent time in both student sections, you know there is a difference in the atmosphere. But that must be obvious to you because you found value in the hill and lower deck that you didn’t see in the upper deck.

Sending all of the students who cannot afford or will not pay the fee to the upper deck seems to be more of a “sorry you don’t have money” consolation prize. It certainly won’t improve the atmosphere there and I would not be surprised in the slightest if you did not fill those 3,300 seats.

The Clemson family is an incredible thing to witness when you capture it, but this plan would serve to separate that family based on economic status. How do you think the students stuck in the upper deck are going to feel looking at their more fortunate peers enjoying their guaranteed lower deck tickets?

Don’t get me wrong – the upper deck is a great place to watch the game. But for four years of a Tiger’s life, the lower deck student section is the epitome of football excitement. Putting a price on that is simply wrong.

All of our success in athletics has come without charging students a fee to guarantee a better seat (IPTAY does not, under any circumstances, guarantee a better seat for students), so why start now?

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One of your main arguments is reminiscent of an old saying our parents used to repeat: “If all of the other schools started charging their students for tickets, would you?”

And your answer disappoints me.

All I ask is that before you officially institute this plan, you think about whether you can feel OK with your decision and its consequences. Can you look every student with debt in the eye and tell them if they want to sit with the rest of their Clemson student body, they need to take out more loans?

Can you really celebrate the togetherness of the Clemson family after every win when the fee you’re approving puts an income split between the team’s biggest fans?

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