Mike Brierton understands there could be backlash to a $10 increase for the seven-game Clemson football season-ticket package announced by the school Thursday. But he's convinced the program is on solid footing and that there is a price for success in the college game.
"I think there will be a minor reaction," Brierton said, "but I think people will be ready to ante up.
"In order to compete, you have to pay for it. I'd like to see a small increase every year, because I think we're heading in the right direction."
The bump, from $299 to $309, was the first since 2006, when tickets went from $225 to $299.
Clemson has been one of the few major universities that has not operated its athletic department at a deficit, based on figures published by the NCAA.
A 10 percent reduction in expenses was budgeted for 2009-10, and Clemson was prepared to dip into its athletic reserves to cover a potential shortfall, said Katie Hill, senior associate athletics director for external affairs.
A year ago, the operations fund had a $9 million reserve.
Football tickets generate nearly 40 percent of Clemson's athletic revenue for a budget of more than $50 million.
Last year Clemson sold 50,372 season-ticket packages, down from 2008's record 58,135.
Revenue from advertising, corporate sponsorships and licensing also declined.
And in an uncertain economic climate, Clemson faces escalating coaches' salaries.
Schools nationwide are seeking either to improve revenue streams or identify alternative sources. Clemson's share of ACC revenue was projected at about $9 million.
That pales to the estimated $16 million that SEC schools receive as part of the league's 15-year, $3 billion TV deal.
Clemson athletics director Terry Don Phillips said recently that while he is concerned about the "sustainability" of escalating athletic costs, he was optimistic the ACC could improve its TV agreements, which generate between $35 million and $40 million annually.
The ACC signed a seven-year TV contract with ABC and ESPN for $258 million. The agreement expires after next year.
Clemson did not have a sellout in 2009, but Brierton said there were a number of factors, including the economy and rain during several games. He predicted people would return this season off the momentum created last season and off another top-rated recruiting class.
"There's a product that people are willing pay for," he said. "People that would complain about a $10 increase don't care about the state of the program."