Monday, April 23, 2012

The Golden Tickets

The end of spring semester brings many changes each year to colleges across the nation. Seniors graduate, some students decide to drop out or transfer to a different school, while returning students gear up for new dorms and new roommates for the upcoming year. For next year’s University of South Carolina students and officials, the end of spring semester also marks the end of an old athletic ticketing system. The university’s current ticket system, which is operated through the company Tickereturn, will be replaced for the 2012-2013 football, basketball, and baseball athletic seasons by the more widely known company Ticketmaster. This new system ushers in a vastly different way in which students request, receive, and use their student tickets. In this report, and with a primary focus on football ticketing, I review these new changes and the decision to move forward with a new system, as well as provide some student feedback on the changes in student ticketing.
            In an email interview I conducted with student Secretary of Athletics Travis Horne, he described the need for a new ticketing system for students. “There were many complaints last football season from students, administrators, and even parents about Ticketreturn”, he replied. These complaints “ranged from Ticketreturn crashing to students photocopying their printed tickets resulting in many being denied entrance into the stadium.” Horne noted that as an official elected by the students, and as a voice of the student body, it was his responsibility to listen to these complaints and to help solve the problems that students were facing through ticketing. “Throughout the school year, Student Ticketing held multiple forums to gather opinions and gauge where the student body was on the issue of ticketing.” As a result of these meetings, it was made obvious to Horne and everyone involved in the student ticketing department that something had to change. The need for a new ticketing system was sparked by student response, which helped reveal the deterioration of Ticketreturn. Once it became apparent that something needed to be done, it was the willingness to answer student ticketing problems by those in power, such as Horne, that helped build momentum for a new student ticketing system. As discussions began to take place, Horne made it clear that student input was a priority and that students played a key role in choosing the new system. “As recently as Friday, April 20th, I have met with administrators to continue to voice the concerns of the student body. Although the students did not make the final decision on what would happen with student ticketing, our voices were heard.” It is clear from this statement that there are still adjustments taking place on the new system, but Horne remains dedicated to the students and is working to keep the voices of the student body heard in the matter.
After detailing just how the new system was decided upon, it is important to review the significant changes students can expect for the upcoming football season. With any change, there is bound to be mixed feelings among the affected population as people are forced to break routines and adjust to a new way of doing things. One of these changes involves the ticket itself, as Horne described in the interview. “Ticketmaster allows for students to put their tickets on their Carolina Card, instead of printing out a ticket with Ticketreturn.” This addresses the complaint that many students had about tickets being photocopied under the Ticketreturn system, keeping many people from entering the football stadium. Putting the tickets directly on the Carolina Card also allows students to not waste paper on printing tickets, and makes it less likely for students to lose their ticket to the game.
However, the biggest change that students will encounter for football tickets is the requesting process for each game. Under Ticketreturn, students were given a two day window to request a ticket for the upcoming home game. Once a student requested a ticket, their name was put into a lottery and tickets were given to each student whose name was chosen in the drawing. Those who didn’t receive a ticket in the original drawing, or forgot to request a ticket, were forced to go through a claiming period which began two days before a game and ended one hour before kick-off. Students fought for tickets that went unclaimed or canceled by those who received a ticket during the request period. Under the new system, this weekly request period for all students will no longer occur. In my interview with Horne, he touched briefly on this subject, stating that “Ticketmaster allows for students to apply for season tickets, which is aligned with the majority of the other SEC schools.” Instead of requesting tickets for each individual home game, students will have the opportunity to request one season ticket that will allow them to attend each home game in the 2012 season.
 For a detailed description of the new process to receive these season tickets, I turned to a good friend and Press Secretary of Student Government, Emily Cooper. Cooper was largely involved in the ticketing debates, and laid out the process for me in a personal interview a few weeks ago. To paraphrase her response: last Monday, the requesting period for the 2012 football tickets was made available to current students at USC. For entering freshmen and transfer students, the request period will begin when they arrive on campus for orientation. All students will be notified whether or not they were selected in the lottery after the last day of summer orientation takes place. Each student selected in the lottery receives season tickets to every home football game in the 2012 season. For those students not selected in the initial lottery, they will be forced to go through a claim phase for each home game similar to the claim phase under the Ticketreturn system. Students not receiving season tickets will have to try and claim single game tickets that are canceled by season ticket holders for each home game on a near weekly basis. But as Horne stated, this type of design reflects those found at most colleges in USC’s football athletic conference, the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
Of course, everyone’s chances in the lottery in both the old system and the new one depend on the amount of points each student owns. Students receive points in two ways: first, a small amount of points is given to each student based on their academic class, with seniors awarded the most and freshmen the least; second, students receive additional points for each football, basketball, and baseball game they attend. Having more points gives students a greater chance of being selected in the lottery. This brings up the issue of freshmen receiving an adequate amount of tickets since they receive the least amount of points based on academic class and have had no prior chance to receive points from attending games.
When asked about this issue, Cooper acknowledged that freshman would be at some disadvantage. “It will be tough for first year freshmen to get a ticket because they do not have many points to start with, but there are going to be season tickets in the upper-deck of the stadium that many freshmen will be able to get. They will also have a chance to get tickets each game through the claiming period, just as many freshmen under Ticketreturn relied on the claiming process to receive tickets.” Although the process will be tougher for freshmen next year, these students will still have a good opportunity at receiving either season tickets in the upper-decks, or tickets to each game through the claiming process of Ticketmaster. Nick Viole, a rising junior who has attended every home football game as a student at USC, reiterated these sentiments in a personal interview I conducted with him. “I went through a lot of challenges to get student ticketing my freshman year, so it’s not like this is a new thing. They will find a way to get tickets if they want them, and once they start attending games it will be easier for them to get chosen for other games. All students go through the same thing.” Viole believed that the disadvantage in student ticketing is not specific to any system or any freshman class, and that it is something all students must endure at some point no matter what system is in place. It is important to also mention that attending other Ticketmaster events like basketball and baseball will give students a better chance of building up enough points for season tickets for the next football season.
Although changing systems was a clear necessity in the numerous student complaints following last year’s football season, implementing a new system has been met with many challenges for students and ticketing officials alike. “There are many growing pains to go through with Ticketmaster,” Horne told me in his email. Those growing pains involve new software being programmed and the issues involving incoming freshman. There is also obvious uncertainty for students as to what the Ticketmaster experience will be like, with Viole saying “I guess we’ll just have to wait ‘til it plays out for us to see.” Despite these growing pains and uncertainties, Horne made it clear that he believed that this change was for the best. “I believe the new ticketing system is more efficient and user friendly than Ticketreturn.” And in the end, this commitment to making things easier for the students is something that both the students and Horne can feel good about. Although it is still unclear what direction student ticketing will take under the Ticketmaster system, students can feel better knowing that there is such dedication by our elected officials to keep the students at USC happy. As for whether this new system will ultimately deliver this happiness to students, only time will tell. In the words of Nick Viole “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In non-college, Opening Day news

Sorry for the delay. As most everyone knows by now, Kentucky and Baylor won the men's and women's title, respectively, after both being #1 overall seeds in their tournaments. Such madness.

Anyways, in honor of Opening Day of MLB taking place right now on ESPN, I present my idea for the new MLB logo. It details the effects of prolonged exposure to 162-game seasons on its fans and teams.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Poll: Most Ridiculous Final Four Courts

So I just started watching the Women's Final Four game between Baylor and Stanford, and immediately was drawn to the court design as there are mountains all over the court. A friend yesterday voiced displeasure over the design at this year's Men's Final Four in New Orleans because of the green encompassing the entire court. Although I didn't see much wrong with it, it got me thinking about some of the worst Final Four court designs in history, and most notably is the Women's Final Four courts. Now, being overshadowed by the Men's tournament, it makes sense for the Women's Final Four to try and do something outlandish in order to attract more attention from viewers. But the courts that have been on display recently in the Women's tournament seem to be rapidly declining as if they are in a competition year after year to design the ugliest courts possible.

So, I present TDW's poll of the 3 ugliest courts ever assembled in Women's Final Four history.

3) From last year's Final Four in Indianapolis, I give you THERMOCOURT...

Honestly, this is one of the more conservative courts of the past few years, but the inside paint designs are simply ridiculous. The courts normally attempt to wrap up a city's essence through its design each year, which must mean Indianapolis has an affinity for thermometers and/or old fashioned light poles. The fact that the designers don't give any other clues as to what these pictures may represent for the city of Indianapolis just makes this court absurd looking. 

2) As the antithesis to Indianapolis' ambiguous and rather conservative court, I give to you this gem from the St. Louis Final Four

St. Louis wanted to be clear to its audience what its court design represented. So much so that I can't look away from the arch because it's so obnoxious and misaligned and look the game's over and I had no idea who was playing because I've been staring at this arch for so long why is it there dear God.

Seriously, if you're going to put an arch on the court, at least make it stay on the court and not trail off into the sidelines. At least make it blend in with the court by using less contrasting colors than solid blue, much like Denver has done with its mountains for this year's Final Four. If the majority of people didn't already know that there is a huge Arch located in St. Louis, I'd venture to say that most people watching these games understood afterwards. And that's somewhat of a positive, I guess.

1) As bad as the other two courts were, nothing tops Tampa Bay's quest of transforming a court into a visual culinary masterpiece

Yes, the great state of Florida, sometimes referred to as the "Orange State", decided to turn its court into a fruit. Now, let me start by saying that this court does a pretty good job at incorporating designs into the court without making it contrast significantly with the rest of the hardwood (unlike St. Louis). But the thought of  someone attempting to transform a court into an orange is just too much for me to comprehend.

I will give credit that Tampa has a unique vision going into its design process, unlike Indianapolis. But with the wide range of attractions found in the state, I feel there could have been at least one other design that would highlight a more significant state symbol.

I present my idea of Tampa's court below, by way of Paint:

Personally, I feel this would encapsulate all that is right with Florida/Tampa. Disney World, Mickey Mouse, lightning, and of course sunshine for the "Sunshine State." It's beautiful.

You're welcome, Tampa.

And then there were two

The state of Kentucky can finally resume as normal (besides the city of Lexington). The Wildcats are going to the championship game for the first time since 1998, and are looking for title #8 in the school's proud basketball history. The game vs Louisville was in control for most of the night, as Kentucky pulled away from the Cardinals early and was able to keep the lead somewhere between 4-13 points most of the game. Louisville was able to get a run in the 2nd half and tie the game at 49, but Kentucky showed their composure and responded quickly after, eventually winning the game by 8 points.

In game #2, Ohio State put Kansas in a hole early in the first half and carried a double digit lead into half. However, Kansas stormed back in the 2nd half, keeping close throughout the last 10 minutes of the game, eventually going on a 13-2 run towards the end and putting Ohio State away 64-62. As good as the game was, the ending was somewhat disappointing. Down by 3, Kansas decided to foul Aaron Craft with 2.9 seconds left, as Ohio State was only in the one-and-one situation at the free throw line. Craft made his first basket and purposefully missed the second, and in his attempt to get his own rebound he stepped into the paint before the ball hit the rim, committing a lane violation and giving Kansas the in-bounds. As the replays were shown as to what had happened, the play resumed and the cameras cut back in time to see Kansas running out the clock as Ohio State players looked around confused as to what was going on. Although an awkward ending, the game was a great one and a very deserving win for Thomas Robinson and the Jayhawks.

Almost all analysts in the country expected this Kentucky team to at least make the title game, and they didn't disappoint. Kansas on the other hand was a pretty large surprise, as they have largely overachieved with a team seen as much weaker than the Kansas teams of the past couple years. However, Bill Self has done a marvelous job coaching this team back to the title game for the first time since winning it all in 2008, and look to pull off what would be the most surprising win all season for the Jayhawks. 

As good of a story it would be to see Thomas Robinson, whose Grandmother, Grandfather, and Mom all passed away in a matter of months last year, win the national title, I'm afraid that things look bleak for Kansas. These two teams played each other back on November 15 in Madison Square Garden, with the Wildcats winning 75-65, although the score does not reflect the domination that the Wildcats had in that game. These teams are admittedly vastly different since the first meeting, but I still believe that Kentucky is the much deeper, more talented team, and I do not think T-Rob can out-duel youngster Anthony Davis. 

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Kentucky wins 71-67 Monday night for the championship, with good showings from both teams.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Welcome to Final Four Saturday...

...Otherwise known as Blackout Saturday for Kentucky residents.

I decided to share my inclinations on what we will see tomorrow night, with Kentucky-Louisville tipping off the first game in New Orleans in a little under 15 hours from now. Of course, these are just my unprofessional insights, and judging by my bracket this year, these predictions are likely to be horrifically inaccurate.

Honestly, I'm not very sure how Louisville got to this point. It wasn't so long ago that I was watching this team struggle early on to beat teams like Miami Ohio at home when they were ranked #4 in the country. I didn't have much expectations for this team all season, yet they came into Manhattan for the Big East tournament and completely took Madison Square Garden by storm. They've been on a roll since opening up with an ugly looking game against Seton Hall in the Big East tournament opener, winning 8 postseason games in a row. Kemba swag has definitely been set to ON for Siva and the Cardinals this postseason.

Kentucky has been a clear #1 team in the country for most of the season now, and have continued to look strong in the postseason despite a tough SEC championship loss to Vandy. Kentucky won the first matchup with their hated rivals in Lexington on Dec 30 of last year, winning by 7 points. This occurred during a time when Louisville looked to be heading in the wrong direction and were riddled with injuries. I personally feel that the Cardinals, being on a hot streak, will be able to really keep this game tight for most of the game, and with their mojo they even have a legitimate shot at knocking off the Wildcats. But in my gut, I feel the Wildcats are still the most talented team in the country and will be too much for Louisville to overcome. After a disappointing showing in ATL last weekend, look for freshman sensation Anthony Davis to come out strong tonight and dominate the boards all game. Marcus Kidd-Gilchrist was an absolute monster in the first matchup, and I expect him to contribute big time tomorrow as well. And if Terrence Jones gets going, Louisville might as well start up the buses early.

For the 2nd match-up, Kansas vs Ohio State, I'm not exactly sure what to expect. Kansas won the first match-up between these schools in Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas) earlier this season, but with limited action from star Buckeye center Jared Sullinger. With this in mind, I expect Sullinger to come out strong looking to makeup for his absence in the first game. However, Thomas Robinson has been arguably the best player in the country this year, helping this Jayhawk team tremendously overachieve all season long. Robinson has a knack for making huge plays in close games (a la vs Mizzou and Purdue) and willing his team to victory, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Robinson shutting down Sullinger beneath the basket. All in all, I feel that Kansas has the momentum going right now, and I expect them to continue that momentum right into the finals with an unfortunate date with Kentucky, who manhandled the Jayhawks in the very beginnings of this season.

For this weekend, the most important thing is that everyone enjoys the last weekend of college basketball for the 2011-2012 season. Good luck to all of you still alive in your bracket pools, although you have one sick mind to have a decent bracket by this point in the tournament. May God bless your troubled soul.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Introductions are in order...

How's it going everyone. My name's Will and I'm absolutely obsessed with college sports of all kind. This blog was initially started as part of a class I'm currently in, but since it's up I figured it would be a great chance to share some of my opions and news on the happenings in college sports. Everything from SEC football to Hockey East men's hockey, I've got you covered. As you can tell, I'm a Gamecock fan/student, but I will try and focus more on college sports in general rather than going on and on about how much better we are than Clemson (just kidding for the Tigers that may read this post). I look forward to sharing my thoughts with the world and hope that some people come across this blog, and if you like what you see please don't feel hesitant to share with friends/family/roommates/doctors/neighbors/mechanics/etc. I would love to hear some feedback, so anytime you feel the need to share something with me please do so.

Hope to keep some of you guys around here and up-to-date. It is my goal to teach the women readers who aren't sports fanatics some sports knowledge for impressing that special man in your life, and for guys you'll be able to win all your sports arguments with your friends and be the smartest guy in the room.

Welcome to threedayweekends.

Friday, March 23, 2012

State of the Students

Many students at big universities such as USC can recall their first ever day arriving on their college campus and the excitement that surrounds that day. Whether you follow your high school friends to college, or decide to go somewhere different than everyone else, students are introduced to an entirely new student population when they first arrive on campus. As students begin to mingle with their new roommates, suite mates, or floor mates, they encounter people from a variety of backgrounds, often befriending those who live hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Because of this, a large portion of discussion early on between new friends in college involves where each other are from and their reasons for picking the school they now attend. This topic is continuously brought up throughout the college tenure as students are introduced to new people. To dig deeper into this topic, I decided to investigate the backgrounds of some of the student population at the University of South Carolina, including two of my friends who were floor mates of mine during our freshman year.
            The decision to attend college close to home versus choosing to go out of state has been something of an interest to me ever since being here at USC, especially the factors involved for deciding either option. To better understand why people stay or leave home, I interviewed two friends: one from Cincinnati, Ohio and another from Lexington, South Carolina. It was important to get the perspective from both out-of-state and in-state students in order to try and get an idea of what makes these two groups different from one another. For Emily, my friend from Cincinnati, her biggest reason for leaving home was the “opportunity to experience a new city.” This statement reflects the feelings of many out of state students I have had conversations with regarding the matter. The excitement of being somewhere new, and not confined to the same environment that one grows up in, seems to be a big attraction for out of state students.
USC has enjoyed a nationally recognized and highly regarded International Business program in its College of Business from well-respected college ranking publications such as US World News. This recognition was a big selling point as well for Emily, saying that she “wanted to attend a college with a good business school.” The idea of being in one of the better Business schools in the nation, therefore, becomes a very large pull factor for USC to those out-of-state students looking at enrolling in the College of Business. Emily also expressed her desire to attend a “good sized school with Division 1 athletics”, and this point is one that can be echoed by a large majority of students who attend D-1 schools across the nation. With the opportunity to play on nation-wide platforms like ESPN, D-1 colleges are able to reach across states to potential students. Success of college sports teams offers students a separate access of entertainment, and a feeling of community among other students and fans in the wake of big sporting events. For out-of-state students like Emily, the opportunity to watch USC on TV increased the interest in the university, and getting to attend big SEC games in a variety of sports at USC became another significant pull factor.
I followed this interview up by talking to my old floor mate and now roommate, Jon, from nearby Lexington, South Carolina. For Jon, money was the biggest reason for staying close. “It’s so much cheaper to stay in-state and to stay close, since I don’t have to travel far to get here”, he replied. For Jon, it was less about staying close due to home sickness as it was about cost of being close to home and receiving in-state tuition. The disparity between in-state and out-of-state tuition is certainly a tremendous factor in many college students’ decisions as to where to go. At USC, for instance, there is a $19,000 difference between the tuition for in-state and out-of-state students. Being a public, as well as the flagship, university in South Carolina, it is the mission of USC to educate as many residents of the state as possible, which requires making the price of this education affordable for the majority of residents in South Carolina. The USC mission statement, updated in June of 2010, specifically identifies the citizens of South Carolina as being the ultimate responsibility of USC. The mission, found on USC’s main website, states that “the primary mission of the University of South Carolina is the education of the state’s diverse citizens through teaching, research, creative activity, and service.” This responsibility USC undertakes to teach its residents is what keeps tuition prices for the residents considerably lower than for out-of-state students. It is this feeling of responsibility for the residents of South Carolina that keeps many students in the state and allows for students like Jon the opportunity to attend college a receive education on the highest levels.
Although there is only mention of in-state students in USC’s original mission, there is a small statement dealing with the issue of out-of-state students under a separate section on USC’s website labeled “SC Difference”. The University declares that “years ago, USC recognized the value that out-of-state students bring in terms of diversity, backgrounds, opinions, and talents. At that time, our enrollment began to grow as students from other states entered our system.” From this, it appears that it has been a fairly recent goal for USC to increase its out-of-state student population. As of now, the University claims that “USC students who hail from outside the state represent about 33 percent of our total student population.” From these figures, we can see that about 67 percent of the current population comes from in-state, and with USC’s stance on its responsibility to provide residents with an affordable education, it comes as no surprise. However, the statement goes on to say that “now nationally recognized- for athletics, the arts, business, and science- USC brings distinction to our state and is a driver in economic development. It can be seen that USC has begun to realize that attracting out-of-state students through things such as athletics and business (as Emily touched upon during our interview), USC is able to further diversify the state and to put the state in more of a national spotlight, and helps to drive economic growth.
From these interviews and statements from the University, the question of in-state versus out-of-state, at least at USC, becomes a bit clearer. Opportunities to explore a new city and be introduced to a new environment, along with success in programs like athletics and business, generate interest in USC from students out of state. At the same time, USC’s original mission to provide the citizens of South Carolina with an affordable education helps keep many students, like Jon, close to home. Although the numbers are skewed towards an in-state majority at USC, there is a good chance that each student that you meet will have a very different background from your own. It is important that students not simply restrict their learning for inside the classroom walls, but to continue the learning process as they encounter and befriend other students from backgrounds so that they may continue to better understand the nation and world around them.