July 30, 2003
Carol J. Schlueter
Phone: (504) 865-5714
The caller said he felt guilty for not calling sooner. Vince Granito listened sympathetically. He's heard this many times during the past six weeks and he has the remedy close at hand. Tickets. Season tickets to Tulane Green Wave games.
And so, Granito signed up another new football season ticket holder, a "closet fan" pushed into action by the storm of publicity surrounding Tulane athletics. Granito, associate athletics director who oversees the ticket operation, is a happy man.
Season football tickets have gone above the 12,000 mark for the first time in at least two decades, more than double last year's number.
If it took a major crisis over university funding for athletics--and the intense "Think Green" campaign for ticket sales and donations that began in early May--to shame apathetic Tulane fans into action, so be it.
"We've seen support and people getting involved that we've never seen before," Granito said. Scott Sidwell, associate athletics director for corporate development, hopes Tulane employees will take advantage of half-price season football tickets available through payroll deduction for $70 per person or $90 for a family of four for six games.
"I would hope that faculty, staff and students come out and support the teams through their attendance," said President Scott Cowen. "It is a lot of fun for families and friends so I hope they'll get interested and they will attend games."
Tickets are critically important as one example of "tangible, sustainable support"--words that Cowen used to describe what athletics needs to survive over the long term. Even more crucial are donations, which are up substantially in the campaign engineered by athletics director Rick Dickson. The annual Tulane Athletics Fund drive surpassed the goal of $1.2 million, reaching its highest ever one-year total, said Larry Quant, executive associate athletics director.
Athletics also is reporting that it has increased its endowment through new gifts and pending commitments from $10 million to $14.5 million. On June 10, the Board of Tulane voted unanimously to continue Division I-A intercollegiate athletics at Tulane. The much-awaited vote, bringing sighs of relief by anxious Tulane athletics staff, student-athletes and fans, came after months of review by the board and its ad hoc committee.
Cowen, however, said the decision was "not the status quo" because athletics has to meet goals for generating revenues and reducing expenditures, operating within an allowable subsidy of $2 million by fiscal year 2007. When the board review became public in early May, Dickson kicked off his campaign. Fans came forward "in an upsurge of passion and support," he said, buying tickets, donating money, putting "Think Green" signs in their yards and volunteering on phone banks. Dickson also wants them to "think long-term."
"Everything we did initially in this first call to action, every ticket solicited, every gift we asked for, was for a five-year basis. Not a one-time emotional response, but sustained commitment."
The campaign touched many constituencies. About 150 businesses purchased "Green Team" books, providing hundreds of football tickets to charity and youth groups. Tulane's six current National Football League players joined to purchase 1,000 youth season tickets for football. Local leaders also showed support, from the sheriffs of three parishes who bought youth football tickets, to the New Orleans mayor and city council, which unanimously passed a resolution of support.
"Our focus was to raise the level of support," Sidwell said. "We're excited about the end result." Dickson had high praise for the 300 student-athletes, for the work by more than 90 staff members who made the campaign a success and for the coaches "who had to keep people focused through so much uncertainty."
The work goes on in athletics this summer, promoting tickets for the fall football season that starts Sept. 1, doing fundraising and looking for ways to make more budget cuts. "I told the staff and coaches, if there is another 5 to 10 percent to be gained, let's roll up our sleeves and find it--we have to," Dickson said. He also intends "to bottle and capture the widespread enthusiasm in the greater New Orleans community and in the greater Tulane community across the country." Will that enthusiasm continue?
As Quant says, "We met all our targets on revenue and expense reductions this year. More important is to make sure we can sustain the revenue side. There's only one way to find out. To try it."
Carol Schlueter can be reached at email@example.com.
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 firstname.lastname@example.org