Good news for all on both sides of Bedlam who despise Mike Holder's ticket policy. He has an exit strategy. Some day in the future, OSU football no longer will designate a singular home game by which admission is granted only through season tickets or the opponents' limited allotment.
The bad news? That day arrives when OSU sells out Boone Pickens Stadium via season tickets.
But back to good news. That day could be fast arriving.
Cowboy football's stunning success story at the box office continues. So much so that OSU's goal for the 2013 season is 50,000 season tickets, and State just might get there. So much so, OSU is dialing back the number of tickets it makes available to OU for Bedlam, always the designated no-sale game in years when the Sooners play in Stillwater.
OU will receive just 4,000 Bedlam tickets this season for the Dec. 7 showdown. Big 12 policy requires schools make 3,850 available. Over the years, OSU and OU have provided 5,000 tickets to the visiting school, though in recent seasons the Cowboys have requested just 4,000. And now that's all OU is getting, though it could sell four times that many.
“We'd always done a deal with OU where we traded 5,000,” said OSU ticket manager Craig Bauman. “But based on the demands we're seeing, and where those tickets are (east ends of the stadium, roughly even with the end lines), we feel we can sell those as season tickets.”
More reason for Sooner exasperation. But no matter to Holder. His ticket policy has been the stuff of marketing legend. OSU's season-ticket sales, public and student combined, have increased from 32,903 as recently as 2006 to 48,876 last year. That's a 50 percent increase in six years, an improvement that typically takes decades. And now the OSU goal is 50,000.
“Hoping a day soon we'll be sold out on a season basis,” Bauman said.
When that happens, no longer will a solitary date be restricted from single-game sales. Of course, in that scenario, every game will be restricted from single-game sales.
“When we get to the sellout situation, there won't be any need for the policy, and the controversy goes away,” Holder said. “That's when the policy will terminate.”
That plan angered Sooner fans, who labeled it a ploy designed to keep crimson out of Payne County, and even some OSU fans, who considered it extortion to buy season tickets. Holder always has pleaded not guilty to the former but dang straight on the latter.
“It sends the right message,” Holder said. “You need to be with us the whole year.”
Many OSU fans had the luxury of attending Bedlam without investing in the rest of the season. So Holder “artificially created” — his term — what has been the truth in Norman for decades. If you want to see Bedlam, you better have a season ticket.
And to their credit, OSU fans have responded, even amid a little grumbling.
“We think that policy has helped us tremendously,” Bauman said. “Our fans always used to pick the best game. By taking that away, it really has driven people to say, ‘I'm only going to pay a little bit more, and I can buy a season ticket.'”
Truth is, OSU football was a sleepy program for decades. A decent amount of success, an occasional rise to temporary fame, but never a high roller. Never a force that captured state sports fans who had no discernible ties to the university. Never a program that did much more than hang out a shingle, waiting for customers to stop in.
Now look at OSU football. A glittering stadium. A 2013 season-ticket campaign that is ahead of 2012's pace, meaning 50,000 is possible and perhaps likely. A 2012 average attendance of 56,556 in the 60,218-seat stadium. Twelve new suites, bringing the BooneDock's total to 111, of which 109 have been sold.
“I'm confident we'll sell the other two,” Holder said. “To put that in perspective, starting in 2001, we had zero suites. Gone from zero to 111 in probably a decade.
“We've come a long way in a short period of time. And there's a lot of credit to go around for that. The upper echelon of our donor base, they've stepped up. Credit Boone Pickens and his generosity. Pat Mike Gundy and the football team on the back. And our student body has embraced the football program.”
And don't forget an unpopular, but undeniably successful, ticket policy.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.