Minnesota blasted for forcing hockey fans to buy football tickets

(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

The University of Minnesota is a hockey-mad campus and understandably so, with 21 Frozen Four appearances and five national championships.

So the school’s athletic department decided to use that obsession from the student body to its advantage this summer. It bundled season tickets to Gopher men's hockey games with season tickets to the school’s football team, which plays in a 50,800-seat stadium and sells under 5,000 student season tickets per season.

As a result, fans who paid $99 for student hockey tickets last season were forced to buy a $175 bundle that included both hockey and football tickets.

The administration got what they wanted: Tickets to Gophers hockey games sold out, and fans that waited to see if they could buy unbundled season tickets were frozen out. Their only option now: $15 single-game standing room only tickets.

One of those fans was Kyle Kroll, a student senator with the school, who led the charge against the school’s new policy.

"It's just disappointing," said Kroll, 23, to MPR News. "It was really fun to go to them [regularly] with my brother the last two years...and I'll miss being part of the [hockey] community."

So Kroll pushed a resolution that was passed by the Student Senate, asking the school to end the bundling practice and to get fans that didn’t want the football tickets refunds this year.

He and the students soon found a powerful ally in their fight: Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton.

"The Legislature and I did not provide the additional funding for the University to freeze students' tuitions over two years so that you could invent other ways to increase their costs," Dayton wrote in a letter to the school, as quoted by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. "The stated and implied purposes of this new scheme are to increase football attendance and to raise money. ... The proper way to increase attendance is to play the kind of outstanding football your team displayed in trouncing Michigan last Saturday."

The pressure was applied … and the school relented.

The Business Journal reports that University President Eric Kaler reversed the ticket policy on Friday starting next season, saying in a statement:

“Some students were unable to purchase season tickets for that program, which happens most years. In response to feedback from a small group of students, we have re-evaluated the season-ticket policy. While we will continue to offer discounts for multiple-sport season-ticket packages, we will revert to the former process of making single-sport season-tickets available at the same time as our multiple-sport season-ticket packages, starting in the 2015-16 school year."

No word on refunds. But we’re pretty sure the university learned not to use its popular, successful, revenue-generating sport to prop up its struggling programs …