Derrick Jackson reluctantly picked up the phone a few days ago and called off his family’s vacation after seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases in Texas and the Southwest.
Making the call was the first in what could be a couple of painful decisions for the North Texas graduate and longtime UNT football fan. Jackson and his family have purchased UNT season tickets in eight of the last 10 years, each year they’ve lived in the Dallas area.
Due to his concerns over the pandemic, Jackson still hadn’t made up his mind about whether he would renew his tickets for lower bowl seats at Apogee Stadium on Monday afternoon as the hours ticked down to UNT’s Tuesday deadline.
“I haven’t renewed and am on the fence if I will or not,” Jackson said. “A month from now, we may hear something different about where things stand. Right now, we don’t know what things will look like when the season gets here.”
The dilemma is one many UNT fans are wrestling with ahead of the program’s ticket renewal deadline. Earlier this spring, the school extended the deadline from April 24 to Tuesday and has launched a season ticket assurance program in an effort to lure its core supporters like Jackson back to Apogee.
In the event games are canceled due to COVID-19, fans who purchased season tickets will have the opportunity to apply those payments to future UNT games, convert payments to donations to the Mean Green Scholarship Fund or receive a refund.
The question now for UNT is if its fans will renew their tickets at a time when the status of the season and seating capacity are in doubt.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told schools across the state earlier this month that they should plan on operating at 50% capacity in football stadiums this fall. He scaled back Texas’ aggressive reopening last week by closing bars and reducing restaurant capacity from 75% to 50% following the rise in COVID-19 cases.
UNT established a pecking order for fans should it be forced to reduce capacity at Apogee, which seats 30,850. Students and fans who purchase season tickets will be given first priority when it comes to seats.
UNT averaged 21,358 fans per game last season, well over 50% of capacity.
UNT athletic director Wren Baker said the school has seen a substantial increase in calls leading up to the deadline, but is trending behind last year when it comes to season ticket sales. The drop is one UNT officials anticipated due to the uncertainty surrounding the season.
The school does not release ticket sales figures until after the season.
“Obviously, there are still lingering questions, but our ticket assurance plan has given fans comfort that they can request refunds if they aren’t satisfied with our final operational plans,” Baker said in an email. “It’s important for us to get a sense of the renewals and total season tickets so that we can plan appropriately on the various possibilities related to potential capacity caps.”
Steve Boedeker and Adam Driver are among the fans UNT can count on returning. The pair of old college friends are among a group of five families who pay a combined $26,000 per year to rent an Apogee luxury box.
“My group of friends is excited and ready for football,” Boedeker said. “We hope that when the season gets here, things will have calmed down.”
Boedeker is among the residents of North Texas who has recovered from a case of COVID-19. He’s hoping the antibodies in his system will protect him for at least a few months.
Driver is confident UNT officials will do all they can to make Apogee safe for fans. He will be back in his suite when the season kicks off.
“You have your die-hards. It would take an act of Congress to keep us away,” Driver said. “I’m concerned about the fans who have had the shutdown affect their jobs. They will think twice when they don’t see the end to COVID-19 in sight.”
Jackson is among the UNT fans in that situation.
“We wonder about our regular expenses,” Jackson said. “We might just buy single-game tickets this year. We will have a better idea of what things look like in August.”