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There’s Got To Be A Better Way: An Open Letter On Penn State Football Tickets

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

At long last, folks, it’s finally time to buy Penn State football tickets and get set to return to Beaver Stadium. After all, we’ll be back at Gate A with 107,000 of our closest friends in just under seven weeks.

Well…we would be if we could get tickets, that is.

Penn State’s high-stakes student ticket sales have unsurprisingly returned, and with them comes the added pressure of a Ticketmaster system that feels like it was designed by a sadistic programmer who previously worked on airport security checks and your local DMV.

This year more than ever, though, folks are red-hot mad at Penn State’s Ticketmaster system. Many students and parents were met with a flurry of error messages and never-ending queues, all to wind up ticketless despite waking up at the crack of dawn and trying their hardest.

At a certain point, most students probably come to the realization that it shouldn’t need to be this hard to secure football tickets. After experiencing problems year after year, it’s time to face the facts and understand that there must be a better way.

What’s the solution, then? Well, that’s tough. Ticketmaster queues arguably are a better system since they replace in-person lines stretching for miles from the box office. At the same time, though, shoddy technology and unexpected errors can be the ultimate deciding factor in how you’re spending your Saturdays throughout the fall.

Especially this year, folks are often met with this error message. Ticketmaster blames your device of choice, whether that be a computer, phone, or tablet, and kicks you to the back of the line for an error that’s undoubtedly out of your control. I’ve fondly referred to it as the “kiss of death.”

Error messages like this bad boy are particularly troublesome because there’s no quick fix or certain cause. Hell, there’s not even an explanation. Trying a new browser or clearing for cookies might help, but by the time you’re back in line, tickets might’ve sold out without you. You tried your hardest, and yet, it didn’t matter.

Elongated virtual queues introduced in 2019 have stretched the ticket-buying process, but that hasn’t resolved already-existing issues with the system. This year’s grad student and senior tickets sold out in 30 and 38 minutes, respectively. Senior tickets in 2018 sold out in three.

A spot in line won’t guarantee you a ticket. Frankly, you can’t even bet on the chance to buy a ticket. And no matter what you might hear, a once-in-a-lifetime experience like joining Beaver Stadium’s student section shouldn’t be left to chance (or error messages).

It took me six tries Tuesday morning to secure my season pass, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t frustrating. But it was even more frustrating seeing far too many friends let down by Penn State’s system despite trying their hardest. A quintessential part of the Penn State experience shouldn’t make you question whether it’s worth striving toward in the first place.

Missing out on the sale isn’t necessarily the end of the world. It’s possible to pick up individual tickets for your favorite games, but you’ll likely wind up overpaying on secondary marketplaces like Facebook (or perhaps even Onward State’s own exchange…returning soon?). Even this morning, folks were scalping selling season passes for north of $1,500 and $2,000. What’s worse is realizing the $239 season tickets are already among the nation’s highest for students.

Another obstacle in the way of equitable student ticket sales is that there’s little incentive for Penn State and Ticketmaster to change their system when demand remains sky-high. Why invest in a better, more convenient process if tickets will sell out anyway? Complaining in the team’s mentions won’t get the job done — especially when Penn State Athletics is likely focused on increasing revenue following a year or so without fans in stands. Changes will likely come only when demand lessens and profits shrink.

This post was largely written out of frustration. It’s hard watching the system fail year after year and day after day. It’s not fun seeing one of the best perks of being a Penn State student wind up locked behind a painstaking, unfair process. It’s a shame, honestly.

It’s tough to predict where Penn State football ticket sales should go from here. However, conditions undoubtedly need to improve, and perhaps they will as juniors, sophomores, and freshmen try their luck as this week continues. Either way, Athletics — and, to a broader extent, Ticketmaster — owes it to its fans and its brand to make this Penn State tradition more fair and accessible for students.


What do *you* think of buying Penn State football tickets? How should the system be improved? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

By day, Matt is a senior majoring in journalism. By night, he's Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football lover, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza and "Arrested Development" quotes. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ if you hate yourself or email Matt at [email protected] if you hate him.

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