RECENTLY, the West Virginia University ticket office staff was presented the additional task of selling 2,100 tickets for Saturday's season opener with Marshall.No pity needed. As Morgantown-based colleague Dave Hickman tells me, this required minutes of extra labor. OK, maybe an hour.The ducats were not returned by MU officials. As reported by your trusted servant Wednesday night/Thursday, MU took only 3,200 of 5,300 tickets, selling them exclusively to Big Green Scholarship Foundation donors.The same policy is in effect for the Thundering Herd's Sept. 29 game at Purdue.All I had to do was toss out a tweet on the subject, sit back and watch the buffalo fur fly."Seems crazy. Why not take all the tickets to put our fans in the seats instead of giving them back and having more of theirs?" tweeted one fan.Another: "Idiotic. If you can get paying Marshall fans in there, you do it. Big Green member or not."Two dissenters invoked that 21st century phrase that makes English teachers cringe: "Epic Fail."But there's the other side, and it was voiced as loudly."Great policy," a fan tweeted. "Step up and support the team.""Why is requiring supporting the Herd an issue?" another one asks. "This is not an issue for other schools including EZU [a jab at WVU, I think]."This has been one of the consistently heated issues among Marshall fans, even topping the kelly green debate. What is the right answer?Two quick observations:
The previous athletic director was assailed for his fund-raising efforts, or lack thereof. When Mike Hamrick dared to take the job, he promised to "do more with more." In other words, be aggressive in fund-raising.That includes your funds, Mr. Herd fan. It's a clear message.
As occasional advocate of the consumer, I must note season-ticket holders are occasionally downplayed, even disrespected, by the powers that be. This is never right. These people not only vote with their checkbooks, they vote with their feet.If you buy season tickets and are not a donor, you should still be on par with $50 Big Green givers, at the very least. If you owned season tickets during the 2007 football season and/or the 2004-05 basketball season, you should get triple credit.Back to the question at hand: Are Marshall officials doing the right thing?In concept, maybe. In actual practice, no.I am reminded of the Sept. 6, 2003 game at Tennessee, in which MU made its allotment of 8,000 tickets available only to Big Green donors and season-ticket holders. MU's ticket office returned 2,500 tickets, which at the time would have been snatched up by the rest of the Herd's fandom.MU damaged its reputation of fans traveling well, but at least nobody in Knoxville snickered with derision.
Last year, when Marshall returned 700 tickets to Morgantown for some strange reason, I had the pleasure of hearing about it first from Hoppy Kercheval live on statewide radio. Kercheval is a pro who is very good at keeping a "straight face" on the air, but I figure he enjoyed that a bit too much.And now, MU passes on 2,100 tickets, adding to WVU's considerable home-field advantage. That's 2,100 potential green seats turned gold (or yellow, as Herd fans like to call it). That's 2,100 Herd fans deprived of an opportunity to see their favorite team in person.Oliver Luck should leave flowers in the visiting athletic director's box. And in what's left of the visiting fans' section.When Oklahoma brings more fans to Morgantown in November, MU's ticket policy won't look so rosy.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.