When we made the decision as a University to apply and then be accepted to the SEC, we communicated very publicly how there was no question that all of us would have to "step up."
-Missouri athletic director Mike Alden
Yesterday, Missouri AD Mike Alden published an open letter to the university's fans regarding the move into the SEC. It's very upbeat about the challenges and opportunities in the new league.
In particular, it outlines five ways that the program plans to "step up", to use Alden's term. The school fully funds all scholarships, and it will continue to do so as costs rise. It spent a lot of money and energy to catch up in the Big 12's facilities race, and it plans to keep up in the SEC's facilities race as well. A new marketing campaign will be going live soon to raise the school's profile "nationally and internationally, and within the SEC footprint". Along with that will be a campaign to get SEC fans to visit the state more often. Finally, Alden wants to continue investing in such a way that the athletics department is self-sustaining during this time of university funding cutbacks.
The common theme of all of these: we're going to need more money. That's where the second part of the letter comes in.
Football ticket prices will rise to be "middle of the pack" in the SEC. The band will move from the endzone to the corner of the stands, something that will provide more premium priced seats for the endzone. Minimum donations for season tickets will rise, and long-time season ticket holders who don't have to pay those now will be phased into having to pay them over the next couple years.
Alden announced a few other new initiatives, like installing a new artificial playing surface and increasing the number of visitors tickets from 3,800 to 6,000, but it's largely about bringing in new revenue streams. These kinds of changes are nothing new to SEC schools. For instance, my father has had UF season tickets since the late '70s, so he didn't have to pay the minimum "donations" (i.e. fees) until the policy changed just recently. It seems to be a fact of life for the big programs.
It also highlights the fact that rising televisions rights contracts don't cover everything. Game day profits are quite substantial, and with the pressure higher than ever to keep athletic departments from mooching off of general university funds, Missouri is hardly the only program looking to maximize them.
Welcome to the SEC, Mizzou fans, now prepare to open your wallets. It's something we all have to do.