Longtime BYU football fans are using words such as frustrating, devastating, outrageous, irritating, annoying and even horrible to describe their experiences when they tried to renew their season tickets the past few months for the school’s first season in the Big 12.

Others have called the process understandable, surprisingly pleasant, a bargain, a good value and entirely acceptable because the 12-year independent they have followed for decades is finally in a Power Five conference.

When it comes to matters such as these, it seems that beauty is in the eye of the ticket holder, until it isn’t. Opinions vary.

After athletic director Tom Holmoe addressed concerns in an April 18 letter to “all who requested a time to buy football season tickets for the coming season,” the Deseret News asked fans to share their ticket-buying experiences, be they positive, negative or neutral.

Suffice it to say, reactions were mixed — but overwhelmingly negative. For every email that could generally be categorized as positive or accepting, there were 10 that expressed unhappiness and frustration.

That was expected. After all, people don’t usually write letters to the editor when their garbage is picked up on time, their streets are plowed early in the morning and their Amazon packages aren’t swiped from their porch.

Asking for “patience and understanding through this process,” Holmoe said ticket demand is exceeding availability and that the administration “knew there would be growing pains.”

BYU’s athletic department didn’t make Holmoe, or any other officials with direct knowledge of the process, available to answer specific questions about what the 18-year AD said in his letter regarding patrons being “displaced from previous seats” or “priced out of season tickets.”

However, an athletic department spokesperson provided answers to a few questions submitted by the Deseret News. BYU athletics declined to release exact numbers when asked what the caps are for season ticket sales per year and student passes sold per year.

“The reason for capping season tickets and ROC (student) tickets is to allow for a limited number of single-game tickets to be available to purchase for each game,” wrote Jon McBride, associate AD for communications and media strategy.

Capacity at LaVell Edwards Stadium from 2005-09 was 64,045. It dropped to the present capacity of 63,470 in 2010 when more chair seats were installed, among other minor changes. 

Season tickets in demand

In September 2018, Duff Tittle, then-associate athletic director for communications, told The Salt Lake Tribune that season ticket sales had surpassed 54,000 — the highest they had been since the 2009 season. 

BYU officially joins the Big 12 Conference on July 1. The Cougars’ home schedule in 2023 includes Sam Houston, Southern Utah and Big 12 teams Cincinnati, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Oklahoma.

“We need to do this,” Holmoe explained in the letter sent on April 18. “We need strong, better and new revenue generation processes.”

McBride said people do not have to belong to the Cougar Club to purchase season tickets. However, being a member of the official booster organization for BYU Athletics gives a person priority to select their seats earlier. Higher level Cougar Club members are given earlier priority times to buy tickets.

“It is important to note that reseating takes place yearly, and many/most have regularly had different seating locations year-to-year,” McBride wrote. “This year has been unique in that there has been an unprecedented level of demand, creating the need for more reseating than usual. Reseating will continue, year-to-year, moving forward.”

A common theme among the 100 or so people who responded to the Deseret News’ request for their experiences was that they felt like they were not rewarded for their loyalty despite being longtime season ticket holders.

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Tom Holmoe addresses fans’ concerns over BYU football season ticket price increases, seat changes

“We appreciate all of the loyalty shown from Cougar Nation over many years of BYU football,” McBride wrote. “When it comes to season tickets, based on the amount of demand we are seeing and the limited supply available, this reseating process is necessary. We are always looking to provide new ways of rewarding loyalty and adding value to our amazing fan base. We will continue to do so.”

Here are some of the responses from current and former season ticket holders received by the Deseret News. Some have been edited for clarity and length:

Michael Smart, American Fork: “I was pleasantly surprised when I renewed my season tickets. I stayed the same level within the Cougar Club (Silver Cougar), so I thought I’d be looking at nosebleeds. But when my window opened, I could have still gotten two seats close to the 50-yard-line (east stands), just about 10 rows higher than last year (upper bowl). I decided instead to move over to the 35 (yard line) and stay in Row 7. I think that’s more than fair given the move to the Big 12. I feel like we’ve wanted to move to a Power Five conference for a while, so as fans we need to accept that as our standards of the program have risen, so has the investment required to support them.”

Adrian Jenkins, Lehi: “I am a legacy Cougar Club member and the options this year were horrible. Seats I’ve had for years were gone a week before I could pick, based on my time slot. ...

“I think all seats should be based on priority level and not just east and west stands. Also, I hope they require people to join Cougar Club for season tickets going forward. I came very close to not getting tickets this year. I would have showed up and tailgated and left for home at game time. I got seats I’m not happy with but hope the process improves for next year.”

Bill Johnson, Saratoga Springs: “I lost my season tickets this year. Admittedly I have only been a season ticket holder for four years. But the renewal is one of the main reasons why I buy season tickets. I always assumed that priority is always given to prior season ticket holders. But not this year. For those of us that can’t afford to be high-rolling donors, this is devastating. I went to every game whether we won or lost. I didn’t wait until the Big 12. And now I’m punished. 

“I was even willing to pay the enormous price increase. But BYU doesn’t care. Honestly I’d rather play in the WAC and be able to go to the games. I love BYU football, but it will be hard to watch this year from home after being treated this way. Maybe we’ll bomb out in the Big 12 and all the fair-weather fans will leave again and I’ll be able to get season tickets next year. Go Cougs, I suppose.”

Paul Stokes, Heber City: “We are not huge donors high up in the Cougar Club priority points system. We have been season ticket holders for 15 years. I totally understand that there is a greater demand for tickets moving into the Big 12. The problem I have that really irritates me is I’m a sideline season ticket holder, I pay more money per ticket and I don’t get first right of refusal on my tickets from year to year. Yet, end zone season ticket holders, paying less per ticket, can keep their same seats year after year after year.”

Shiloh S. Lloyd, North Ogden: “We have been season ticket holders since the end zone additions in 1982. … For the 2022 season, I got my selection time and thought to myself ‘That seems pretty late.’ So I inquired about CC membership and ways to improve my selection date/time. They informed me if I became a CC member I could select my tickets earlier than the current slot given. So I said, ‘Let me get this straight, any random fan can donate $60 today and they will be able to select their football tickets earlier than me, who is going into their 40th consecutive season?’ They said yes, that is correct. So that is when I started to get frustrated with the process. To me, they are saying that $60 is more valuable/important than 40 years. I actually paid $125 and became a CC member and got a better selection time.

“Fast forward to this year. I pay $250 so I am now one level higher than last year and I am thinking that will move me up in the selection process. I got my email and I kid you not, my selection time is the same exact date and within two minutes of my selection time from the previous year. That really frustrated me. ... So, silly me, I upgraded because I was scared I would lose my seats from last year. … Anyway, so I am now a Silver Cougar and donated $650 year to date and am sitting one row higher than I did last year. Same portal. Same section.”

Reid Fuller, West Jordan: “Just to add a data point. I recognize how hard it is to get neutral or positive stories. Most comments will be complaints. I’m an end zone season ticket holder. I paid for my first season ticket when I was 13 in 1991, and told myself I’d never ‘miss the Miami game’ again.

“I’m an engineer and recognize how difficult it is to design a thing or a process that is without fault. I recognized the pains that would be involved in this process. 

“I had to call the ticket office the day I bought my tickets because only one of my two renewable tickets showed in my cart. They resolved it in less than five minutes. I understand that some who invest more (Cougar Club) than I do may not have got what they wanted. I feel for them, but am grateful I was able to renew.

“Other note: My dad sits three rows from me and has been buying tickets since the stadium expanded in the 1980s. He indicated he would not renew if he couldn’t get his seats. He was uncertain if he could until his time slot was available. He was pleased to renew.”

Robert Warren, American Fork: “I sit in the north end zone. ... Last year my season tickets were $185. This year they skyrocketed to $300. It is outrageous that they nearly doubled in price. A quick calculation of $50/seat (recognizing some seats cost more and others less) x roughly 65,000 seats comes to $3.2 million per game or $19.5 million for the year. Insane. If ticket prices increase next year, bye-bye tickets.”

Terry Parrish Sr., Kennewick, Washington: “I have bought season tickets for the last seven years. I’m not a big donor to Cougar Club but donate $10 a month. The last several years I’ve had 50-yard-line seats, near the top, on the east side. I thought they were great seats for $350 each. This year I was able to renew for $420 each, on the west side, about the 45-yard-line, but three rows from the very top, clearly higher than my previous tickets. Playing Big 12 teams for $70 more per ticket is a bargain. I will bet BYU is still a better value than other top-tier Big 12 teams.”

Steve Jenson, Herriman: “I’ve been a Cougar Club member and season ticket holder for over 15 years. It’s always a mess dealing with the ticket office. We usually sit on the northern end of the west side and so since it’s a drawing every year, we aren’t guaranteed the exact same seats. We were usually able to sit in the same general area, until the year after COVID when they allowed ticket holders to apply the refund they offered for the canceled season to upgrade their membership level. This made it so I had to find different seats. I was able to work my way back to the area I liked the last two years.

“This year the area I was planning to purchase tickets in was made ‘hospitality tickets’ and were priced at $1,250 per ticket. That sure would have been nice to know ahead of time (I usually get eight tickets). So I purchased tickets on the northern end of the east side for this season. It was hard to swallow the ticket increase. Not happy about how it went down and if experience is negative, probably won’t renew next year.”

Brian Nichols, Cleburne, Texas: “I am a BYU football season ticket holder since 1982 but only a Cougar Club member for the last five years. I had four seats for football last season but missed the season because my wife and I are on a mission for our church. My children/grandchildren used the seats. Because of the cost increase I was only able to purchase two seats for the upcoming season, which will cut into sharing my joy of football with family and the fun time grandpa has with his grandchildren.

“There is still a significant increase in revenue for BYU this coming season so it is hard to understand why the fans, who have supported the athletic programs for many years, have such a significant increase. I have been retired for 12 years so my yearly income is fixed, but I have worked part-time each year to pay for my football and basketball season tickets. But that won’t continue much longer. … I’m sure there are many season ticket holders who are retired, have fixed incomes, love BYU, and have been loyal to the university for many years who are going to have to say, ‘I can’t afford it anymore.’ … It will be a sad day for me when I can’t go to a football or basketball game because I am out-priced.”

Rod Gleave, South Jordan: “I have been a Legacy Cougar Club member for 15 years but when I went to renew my tickets this year there wasn’t anything decent left. So I regrettably canceled my membership. Up until last year I have had four seats on the second row in the end zone, but last year was invited to upgrade to the sidelines, which I did but was told this year that those seats are not guaranteed like the end zone seats. Very poor way to treat a longstanding legacy donor.

“It’s been pretty frustrating considering I have been a long-term legacy member and have kept my tickets through a lot of bad years (home schedules) knowing it would get better joining the Big 12. And equally frustrating is that no one has reached out to me even after I let them know I was upset enough to cancel my membership and not renew my tickets because the options were just so terrible.”

Sharon Deem, West Jordan: “I have been a season ticket holder since 1980 and a member of the Cougar Club since 1984. This year my ticket price went up by $50 for three seats (that’s $50 for the three seats, not $50 per seat). I don’t like that, of course, but I sort of expected it, and it is not ridiculous so I can accept it. Sigh. What bothers me is that my seats, while still in section 102, have gone from row three to row 13. I am 80 and have had both knees replaced. Climbing to row 5 was one thing. I am just hoping I can make it up to row 13.”

Derrik S. Shakespear, St. George: “When tickets sold out that quickly, they didn’t raise prices (high) enough. Fans complain because they want better players and better coaches. The athletic department should use the opportunity to find those requests when ticket demand is high. Second thought: BYU is way behind on NIL money. I wonder if there’s a way to leave ticket prices the same but have a separate $250 fee for the Royal Blue Collective. The athletic department should use the demand for tickets to help improve NIL. … This seems like an obvious thing to do when one stops to consider the improved product on the field/court that we are all paying to see.”

Chad Stolle, Sandy: “I was one of many whose tickets were gone when I went to repurchase. I was annoyed, but not surprised as I had seen on Twitter that others where already having the same problem before it was even my assigned day to renew. A day or two later I tweeted @BYUtickets and tagged @BYUfootball and @TomHolmoe. It’s amazing how fast you get a tweet back, as well as a phone call from the season ticket office, after you tweeted something not positive about your experience. It took less than two hours after my tweet for both of those to occur. ...

“BYU athletics/tickets screwed up. Plain and simple. I really don’t think they care because they sold a ton of tickets and made a bunch of money. … Long story short: It was a frustrating experience. They did give an option to try and make it right. But it wasn’t good enough.”

Dick Millett, Provo: “I used to be a season ticket holder for football and basketball. I had seats on the 40-yard line, but was moved to the 20-yard line, and eventually to the end zone. I was a donor and Cougar Club member when the Marriott Center opened. My seats were on the third row, which were moved to the 19th when the renovation was done. I no longer attend football or basketball games.”

M. Byron Fisher, Salt Lake City: “I became a lifetime Cougar Club member when it started. Our donation was $1,500. After 40 years of the same basketball seats, the Cougar Club sold my seats. I was offered seats 20 rows further up in the stadium. I quit attending BYU basketball games. ...

“If our donations to BYU scholarship fund, law school building and law school scholarship funds had gone to the Cougar Club we may have priority to keep our stadium seats. Maybe time and energy as alumni board president and Cougar Club board member do not warrant consideration. We continue as loyal BYU fans and alumni. TV offers a poor alternative to attendance.”

Stephen Shaw, Orem: “I have had four season tickets for approximately 20 years. They have been in the north end zone, lower bowl, right between the uprights. I have not donated to the Cougar Club since the ’80s when my company would match my donation. One exception is that during the COVID year I let BYU hold on to my money and apply to the next year’s tickets. This year I was able to renew my season tickets (same seats) without any problem. I was even offered to be put on a list for additional tickets.”

Robert Coombs, Taylorsville: “I have been a BYU football season ticket owner since 1975. When they added the end zone stadium seats I purchased four seats, which I still have today and have let my daughter’s family use. Fifteen years ago I purchased four more seats in the legacy section from a CC member who I gave $15,000 to and (had) a contract to have them as long as I was alive.

“Last year my wife and I were called to serve a senior mission. I called BYU and told them and they said I could put them on hold for one year. I did not use them last year. Even though we have six months left to serve, I called to purchase for the upcoming year. I was told they were no longer my seats. I have a hard time with this being a church school and being treated this way.”