Jamie Pollard knows what he’s doing. Rest assured, Pollard has looked at this plan from every angle. He’s trying to force a BIG spike in football season tickets, something he finds necessary if ISU wants to compete in the Big 12. Otherwise, Pollard thinks Iowa State should drop out of division one and start scheduling Coe, Simpson, and Grinnell. Well, he may not mean it, but it makes for a great sound bite. Be sure to watch Shawn Terrell’s raw interview on the whotv.com sports page.
It’s another bold move from a man who’s made more than his share. Pollard challenges all those fans who wanted him to change the football and basketball coaches to step up and help pay the bill. ISU owes a lot of money to coaches who aren’t coaching. Pollard also wants $130 million for facility upgrades. All of this means more pressure on football to produce big dollars. Pollard’s trying to force it by selling only season tickets to anyone who wants to see the Iowa – Iowa State football game. All others better hope they’re part of Iowa’s 4,000 ticket allotment, which ISU will charge Iowa $90 a seat.
Keep in mind, no one has walked up to the ISU box office and purchased a single game ticket for the Cy-Hawk showdown for years. Pollard is, in part, stopping Cyclone season ticket holders and boosters from buying extra tickets to the big game and selling them to friends, family and unknowns — many of whom are Hawkeye fans. This is cheered by many in Cyclone country, but certainly not all, and definitely not by those Hawk fans who used to fill up about a third of Jack Trice Stadium.
Pollard’s also freezing out ISU donors who don’t want, or can’t use, season tickets. For example, I heard from one such Cyclone backer who lives out of state. He is bitter and disappointed that he can’t travel to the game he wants to see the most. Yes, he can go to other Cyclone games, but not the one he wants, and he thinks he’s earned the right to choose. I see his point.
I also see Pollard’s. It’s time to find out if Cyclone fans are willing to spend the kind of money it takes to compete in this day and age. Here’s the great unknown: I’m not sure there are enough Cyclone fans willing or able to spend the kind of money Pollard says he needs. Cyclone fans love and support Iowa State. They’re loyal, but outnumbered in a state with a low population. Here in Central Iowa, Clones fans are in the neighborhood of 50/50 with Hawk fans, but everywhere else in Iowa, it’s not even close. The big question remains, are there enough Cyclone fans willing to pay for Pollard’s vision? I don’t think he even knows. ISU doesn’t have a medical or law school, sources of many wealthy contributors at Iowa.
Bottom line, Cyclone fans said for decades they were tired of living in Iowa’s shadow and playing second fiddle to the Hawkeyes. Now they have a guy who’s trying to change that culture, and even if at times, it seems too much about him, at least he’s not rolling over and playing dead. If it fails long term, it won’t be because Cyclone fans aren’t good enough, it will be simply be because there aren’t enough of them with the kind of disposable income it takes in the current college sports arms race.
A prediction in closing: Loophole or no loophole, there will not be an empty seat at the Iowa – Iowa State football game. I don’t think ISU will sell enough season tickets to fill Jack Trice Stadium—I expect around 35,000, the most ever by 4,000—but there’s no way we’ll see empty sections for our state’s biggest sporting event. Maybe those much talked about “tent parties” will require really big tents.