What would Uncle Milton say about mandatory athletic ticket fees? An open letter to Pres Schill

Like many economists, I’m a bit of secret fan of former University of Chicago economics professor Milton Friedman and his “Free to Choose” book – and opposed to making our students subsidize big-time sports and coaches salaries.

Googling around, I find plenty of universities that give students the option of paying for sports ticket packages, rather than forcing them to do so, e.g. UT-Austin: https://catalog.utexas.edu/general-information/registration-tuition-and-fees/tuition-and-fees/optional-fees/

The Big Ticket is the UT Austin sports pass giving students access to home, regular season Texas Longhorns Athletics events for just $175 (plus $20 processing fee). More details on the Big Ticket are available on TexasSports.com/BigTicket, and are also emailed to active UT Austin students.

Texas doesn’t seem to have a problem filling the student section or getting the students to stay for the whole game – a long-time problem for the Ducks, as noted in this Daily Emerald story by Kenny Jacoby: https://www.dailyemerald.com/sports/football/oregon-beats-arizona-state-but-many-student-fans-leave-before-the-ending/article_7518a43a-3219-570a-9a35-a14e1ad8da04.html

This is just what Uncle Milton would have predicted. It’s his argument against the Vietnam War draft lottery, but in reverse. The mandatory fee with lottery means many students who get a ticket don’t really care that much about the game – while an optional fee will select for those students who are most likely to show up, most likely to wear face paint for the TV cameras, and most likely to stay to the end. A Pareto Improvement, as we say.

If people object to the inequity of the price mechanism, the athletic department can simply give a discount to students on financial aid – sort of like the Earned Income Tax Credit – also a Friedman idea.


For contrast, here’s President Schill’s proposal for a new mandatory fee on all UO Students, to replace the current fee which UO’s ASUO student government has voted to eliminate. He wants to make everyone pay – there’s not even a clause allowing for conscientious objectors:

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6 Responses to What would Uncle Milton say about mandatory athletic ticket fees? An open letter to Pres Schill

  1. It's Classified. says:

    I can’t believe that fee is/was mandatory! Just offer students half price tickets, so those who want to go can pay for them. I never once attended a game as a student.

    • uomatters says:

      And yet you were paying the athletic department $75 a year or so. I bet our coaches enjoyed spending it!

      • Inquiring Minds says:

        $100 year per student? $2 million year sounds like academic would be subsidizing sports program. Heavily.

        • Compulsory Pessimist says:

          Inquiring Minds, a *single coach* costs UO well over $2 million in salary alone each year. Just sayin.

  2. Environmental necessity says:

    What value does this “compromise” give to students relative to ASUO saying “sorry, nothing for athletics?” If that wasn’t an option, why not? I understand student fees must support things some students don’t use or support, just like taxes, but everything else fees support except athletics have no revenue. And most of those programs do not exploit free labor or cause brain damage.

    Would like to hear why ASUO agreed/was strong-armed into supporting this “compromise”.

  3. Anas clypeata says:

    Charging all students $80-100 per year for athletic tickets, whether they attend or not, is abusive. It imposes an opportunity cost associated with not attending sporting events, and acts as a disincentive to focusing on academics.

    The UT model of $200 per year for season tickets to all athletic events seems thoroughly reasonable to me. The UO should adopt that model immediately, along with appropriately priced individual student tickets for events.

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