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Eric Peterson, Published December 20 2011

Donations, loyalty pay big dividends in search for NDSU's FCS championship tickets

FARGO – Bison football fans who score the most points will earn their tickets into the national championship game.

North Dakota State is using priority points to decide which supporters get dibs on the school’s ticket allotment for the Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas, against Sam Houston State.

“We try to give the most points to the people that have been supporting us the longest,” said NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor. “I think we feel our priority points system is as fair a way as possible to distribute the (tickets) we do get.”

As of Tuesday, NDSU had 4,600 tickets. A portion of those tickets are being used for players and their families, coaches and staff members. The remaining tickets will go to fans based on the points system. The school cut off pre-orders Tuesday after it initially planned to take orders until Thursday.

NDSU ticket manager Josh Hemingway said his office received around 7,000 requests.

Taylor said NDSU will find out today if the NCAA has any more tickets to add to the school’s allotment. Taylor said fans that earn tickets would be notified either today or Thursday morning.

“Our goal is to get the answer out as quickly as we can as soon as we can so people can look for other alternatives,” Taylor said.

J.D. Hamilton, the media coordinator for the Division I football championship, said the NCAA would announce information on standing-room tickets today. Hamilton confirmed all tickets for the game have been sold or allotted to NDSU and Sam Houston State. He said it’s “highly unlikely” either of the schools would return tickets to the NCAA. If that did happen, those would go on sale to the public at a later date.

For now, those who went through NDSU for tickets have to hope they have enough points, earned by donations and consecutive years of support.

For example, every $50 contributed to Team Makers is one point. For every consecutive year of being a season-ticket holder also earns a point per season. That means a supporter who has purchased season tickets for 15 straight years gets 15 points.

Taylor said the top point-getters have earned more than 50,000 points.

NDSU implemented its points system in the past few years, said senior associate athletic director Pat Simmers. The points have become a talking point this week due to the high demand for tickets to the national title game.

Those who don’t have enough points could be left scrambling to find seats or be forced to pay premium prices. Tickets were priced between $348 and $1,333 on StubHub, which is a ticket exchange website, as of Tuesday evening.

“It’s part of the ticket business no matter if it’s this game or the BCS national championship game,” Taylor said. “It is frustrating.”

Taylor said NDSU didn’t set a limit on how many championship tickets one person could pre-order. He said most of the pre-orders were in the single digits.

Larger ticket orders will be reviewed, Taylor said. But in most cases, those larger orders were from people with comparable numbers of season tickets.

Pizza Hut Park holds 20,086 fans for football.

Taylor doesn’t think the capacity of the venue is necessarily the problem.

“One of the things that I’ll mention to the NCAA when I have a chance is, ‘Can we re-look at the distribution so the schools can get more of that distribution?’ ” Taylor said.

This is the second year Frisco has hosted the title game. The attendance for last year’s championship game between Eastern Washington and Delaware was 13,027 fans.

“A bigger venue obviously costs the NCAA more money and again their point is, ‘We want to fill it.’ ” Taylor said. “They want players to come out to a filled stadium.”

Sam Houston State head coach Willie Fritz said the Bearkats are having similar ticket issues.

“I’m having an unbelievable amount of requests for tickets, and I’m sure they are having trouble getting them up there, too,” Fritz said Tuesday.

“I went to the championship game last year and they had 8 to 10,000 empty seats. And this year, they could have probably sold enough for 40,000 to be at the game.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com