No More Admission Fees

The October 30, 1903 weekly edition of the Narka Kansas News included an article title, “The Plan a Good One.” The plan being referred to was on concocted by the faculty of the University of Chicago which would have eliminated paid admissions to contests in which the school’s athletes participated. The plan wasn’t as simple as it sounds at first glance because not all of Chicago’s games, meets, matches and tournaments were played at facilities controlled by the University. Many of them were played at facilities located on the campuses, mostly those of members of the same athletic conference as Chicago. So, meetings were set up with faculty representatives of the Universities of Wisconsin and Michigan to discuss dropping admission fees for athletic contests held at those schools.

Dropping admission fees is not something that can be done easily because athletic programs cost money to operate, even a century ago. Ticket sales help cover those costs and, in some places like Yale and Carlisle Indian School, generated a tidy profit. So, the trustees of the University of Chicago were going to create an endowment from which the earnings were to pay for the operation of the University’s athletic program and had taken preliminary steps to create an endowment for physical culture and athletics.

It is highly unlikely that this plan ever got off the ground because Michigan and Wisconsin were probably making so much money off their respective football programs that it couldn’t be replaced easily with earnings from an endowment unless the endowment was very large.

Also, this move was in sharp contrast with the announcement made by the Athletic Association of the University of Pennsylvania ten days earlier when it announced that approximately 6,000 tickets were to be sold at $2 each. Previously, 21,000 tickets were to be divided equally among the academies and Penn. This year, the tickets allocated to Penn were to be put up for sale. In earlier years, no admission was charged.

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