Dozens of season-ticket holders and Mountaineer Athletic Club members talked with WVU representatives Wednesday at the Coliseum about a new seating plan that will reward big-money donors.
The MAC announced the change in December. Wednesday was the first of three open houses designed to receive feedback and explain the situation to fans.
“It gives a chance to folks to really understand why we’re doing this and what the implications will be,” WVU athletics director Oliver Luck said. “Some people won’t be affected at all, others will be affected.
Luck said seating takes several factors into account including monetary donations and fan loyalty. He said WVU studied point systems in place at other schools like North Carolina State, Virginia Tech and Virginia.
“We didn’t reinvent the wheel. We took the best things we could from other schools,” Luck said.
Fans talked with WVU representatives who laid out the new seating plan.
Craig Liebig has had football season tickets for 27 years and basketball season tickets for eight years. The new seating plan will allow Liebig to take advantage of better seats, he said.
“I’m feeling better, because at first I thought I was going to have to give more money and my seats weren’t going to be as good,” Liebig said. “But according to what I’ve been told, there’s a good chance I can even move up at my same donor level.”
The change is needed as more donors continue to write large checks, but there were no open seats available in the lower section of the Coliseum, Luck said.
Not everyone is happy. Thomas Brown, a Parkersburg resident who has owned basketball season tickets since 1988, learned he may have to give up his seats located in the fourth row of the upper deck.
“The money means more than the loyalty of the fans, as far as I’m concerned,” Brown said. “I’m just very disappointed. I’ve followed the Mountaineers since 1955 and it’s a hard thing to swallow.”
Luck said the system also gives points to ticket holders for a variety of reasons, including whether they work at WVU, were a former WVU athlete and more. He said he’s comfortable with the new policy.
“We think we put together a system that was as fair and transparent as we could make it,” Luck said. “Is it about money? Sure. Everything is about money in terms of the decisions we have to make. But we’ve tried to be sensitive to people who have donated not only money but a lot of time and energy into Mountaineer basketball.”
Feedback from fans has been mostly positive, Luck said. The open houses are designed to answer questions from ticketholders. Liebig said the open house cleared up some previous vague parts of the plan.
“I think there are still a few questions that need answered, but they are putting out a lot of emails and stuff like that keeping people informed,” Liebig said. “It’s just confusing at first trying to figure it all out.”
But Brown says after missing only 12 basketball games since 1988, he may not return next season.
“This will be my last year coming,” Brown said. “I’m not going to keep donating to find out I’m being moved to the nose-bleed section or moved to not good seating.”
The MAC will hold two more open houses: One is set for Feb. 23 before the Oklahoma State game and the other is scheduled for March 9 ahead of a contest with Iowa State.