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Monday, August 31, 2015

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Hollis discusses Breslin Center seat adjustment at media briefing

For the first time in 15 years, season ticket holders for MSU men’s basketball games likely are going to see the game from a different perspective next season.

In an effort to increase funds and also reward loyal and generous Spartan fans, the MSU athletic department is conducting a seat adjustment in Breslin Center for men’s basketball games effective in the 2010-11 season.

Athletics director Mark Hollis held a media briefing Thursday to discuss the details of the seat adjustment.

Although the news of the adjustment angered some of the almost 3,000 season ticket holders who don’t want to lose their seats, Hollis said the idea of good and bad seats is subjective and that everyone already with season tickets still will have them if they so choose.

“We’re not taking any season tickets away,” Hollis said. “Nobody is being kicked out of the Breslin Center. There’s a seat for everybody.”

Seat allocation for next season will be based on a point system set up by the athletic department. According to the system, season ticket holders in men’s basketball, football, ice hockey, women’s basketball and volleyball will receive three points for every consecutive year they have held tickets in those sports. Two points are given for each consecutive year the ticket holder has been a member of the Spartan Fund, formerly the Ralph Young Fund, and one point is given based on a variety of donation criteria.

Once points are added up, ticket holders will be ranked, and those with the most points will have first priority on seats. Based on ticket holders’ rankings, they will be given a time when they can choose their tickets online by themselves or with the assistance of a Spartan Fund representative.

Appointments to select seats begin June 14th.

Hollis said the necessity of the seat adjustment primarily comes from a need for more funds. Being largely independent from the university, the athletic department must produce its own revenue. With 25 sports to support and men’s basketball and football bringing in 92 percent of the revenue, Hollis said maintaining the level of excellence he desires in all sports is sometimes hard to do without raising ticket prices, cutting sports or reducing salaries.

“Two of the things you hear as an athletic director quite frequently is ‘Don’t you dare lose (men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo)’ and ‘Don’t you dare drop sports,’” Hollis said somewhat jokingly. “It’s not my intention to do either. (Seat adjustment) is one of the things we have to do in order to survive and advance as an athletic department.”

By creating an incentive for alumni to donate if they want certain seats, the athletic department hopes it can make more money from donations without making any drastic changes.

Chuck Sleeper, Senior Associate Athletic Director and Director of Development, said the increase in revenue from alumni has already began, as donations are up 16 percent from this time last year, and the athletic department received $8.2 million in the month of April alone compared to just $3.9 million last April.

“We have tremendous loyal alumni and friends and parents that want to support this program,” Sleeper said.

Although Hollis and Sleeper said there have been plenty of complaints about how the system works, they also said a large number of people had been waiting for this to happen.

“Donors have been asking, ‘When are we reseating?’” Sleeper said. “From our experience … it’s probably been more positive.”

MSU Director of Annual Giving Leigh Ann Warner worked with a number of other universities that have done seat adjustments in the recent past, including Big Ten schools Wisconsin and Minnesota. She said she believes MSU’s version of the process is one of the best, and has even had other universities start coming to her to ask about the program being used in Breslin.

Additionally, she agreed with Hollis’ idea that quality of seating is in the eyes of the beholder, and some ticket holders will choose seats for a variety of reasons.

“When I talked to other universities about this, they told us you are gonna be so surprised to watch where people choose their seats,” Warner said. There’s no way to predict, and there’s really no trending that you’re going to see.”

Hollis also mentioned two other changes being made to Breslin Center next season including the elimination of the sound control area at the top of the lower bowl. As a new seating area, it will create about 32 more seats which will be part of the more than 9,000 available to ticket holders in the seat adjustment.

Also, the lower bowl of the Izzone will be flipped, putting it opposite of television cameras so viewers will see a “sea of white” as Hollis described it, rather than the section of recruits and parents, which is currently visible.

As the seating adjustment takes place, Hollis said it is inevitable some diehard Spartan fans will get less-desirable seats than they had before, which is something he never wanted to happen.

“It breaks my heart,” Hollis said. “But it’s also necessary in order to accomplish the plan that we need for our athletic department.”

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