A Qualitative Exploration of Ticket-Pricing Decisions in Intercollegiate Athletics

Craig A. Morehead – Indiana State University
Stephen L. Shapiro – University of South Carolina
Lamar Reams – Old Dominion University
Chad D. McEvoy – Northern Illinois University
Timothy M. Madden – East Carolina University

Ticket sales represent a significant revenue stream for NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision athletic departments, yet little is known about how administrators determine prices for those tickets. Utilizing strategic planning as the primary framework and supplemented by stakeholder theory, this study examines ticket-pricing decisions from the viewpoint of athletic administrators with various departmental responsibilities to better understand the role of ticket pricing in intercollegiate sport. Twenty athletic administrators, representing two Power 5 and two Group of 5 institutions, were interviewed about their experiences with ticket pricing. In addition to common pricing objectives related to revenue, patronage, and operations, administrators also suggested attendance-oriented pricing objectives unique to college sport pricing theory. However, findings suggest no well-defined organizational objective for ticket pricing exists within the departments sampled. The factors athletic administrators consider when contemplating pricing decisions can be categorized into seven areas: (a) scheduling, (b) research, (c) team performance, (d) stakeholders, (e) discrimination, (f) fan experience, and (g) competitive comparisons.