Boise State, BAA change business for boosters

Membership is now based on points for loyalty and giving.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comApril 28, 2013 

Inclusive and transparent were two of the buzzwords Boise State Athletic Director Mark Coyle emphasized when he was hired late in 2011.

And they're two of the key words driving a major overhaul to the Bronco Athletic Association booster memberships, changes that take effect this football season.

The changes, which put Boise State in line with systems used by many other athletic departments, have created some confusion and concern among members, but the BAA expects the system will prove easier to understand.

The biggest change is a new priority points system that ranks boosters based on giving and loyalty (see box, page 3). That ranking will determine seating for bowl games, away football games, postseason basketball and other events - and, for new or upgraded accounts only, football season tickets.

"Change is going to be hard for a lot of folks - nobody likes change - but I think once they've been in the new system and had a chance to learn it and make it work for them, they're going to love it," said Bob Beede, a veterinarian and the volunteer president of the BAA. "One of the things I've always heard … bowl games, away games, people complain: 'I get terrible seats. I give money. Why?' With this new system, there's transparency and people will know right where they stand. If they want to up their level and get better opportunities, there's a way to do that.

"… In the past, it was pretty nebulous where you stood in all that stuff. Even being involved in the BAA, I was never totally sure where I stood. It was confusing and kind of disturbing in some ways."

Coyle is familiar with priority points from his previous job at Kentucky. Boise State had been researching the switch for at least a couple of years before he got here.

Under the previous system, BAA benefits were based on membership level. Boise State has 1,600 Wrangler ($950 per year) members and they are treated the same. The new system ranks each of them.

"At the end of the day, it's a very transparent process," Coyle said. "It's not who you know, it's what you've done. We reward those people who have been the most loyal to us.

"… As luck would have it, our first (football) game is at Washington - so people are going to learn about it real quick. We don't have a grace period."

The biggest misunderstanding has been over how the points affect existing ticket holders - they don't. Fans who renew their tickets retain their seats. The same goes for parking passes, which in many cases will cost more (see box, Sports 3).

There are two other big changes:

• Membership requirements for football tickets are now priced per seat. Previously, they were priced per pair - but fans could purchase a high-end membership and buy more than two tickets in a lower-end seat category.

That allowed one fan to get a bulk discount and pay less than a couple who bought tickets in the same section. The per-seat pricing removes that discount.

The change also helps split those large groups into separate accounts for priority points.

About 600 accounts were affected by the change, which hits about 3,000 ticket-holders. They'll pay half of the price difference this year and the full price difference next year.

"A family of four or six, those are the ones that probably got hurt the most out of that," Associate Athletic Director David Kinard said.

• The BAA has started a Bronco Nation Fund, which will be rolled out to the general public this fall. The BAA provides 27 percent of the athletic department budget but has been criticized for years for its low membership total.

The Bronco Nation Fund allows fans to contribute any amount and become BAA members. The organization has 4,200 members - a paltry number for a fast-growing fan base.

Beede met Boise State fans from Knoxville, Tenn., at last year's game at Southern Miss. He hopes the Bronco Nation Fund will attract donations from people like them.

"If we're going to maintain a competitive posture in college athletics," Beede said, "and we're not getting huge conference money, we have to build the Bronco Nation Fund and expand the donor base to make all this happen."

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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