By Laine Higgins
Texas A&M University on Thursday will hold a lottery in which the winners walk away with an unusual—and very expensive—prize: The right to pay $100,000 for a hotel reservation.
The six-figure price tag is largely based on a single amenity: The yet-to-be-built hotel will sit across the street—96 feet away, to be exact—from Kyle Field, where the Aggie football team plays six or seven games each year.
Sound absurd? Thus far more than 750 Texas A&M alumni have expressed interest in the program, though not all of them had put down a refundable $5,000 deposit as of Monday. Less than a third of that number will win. For sleeping quarters on the hotel’s top floor—13 suites and 36 standard rooms—the deposit was $10,000. Those reservations, where the starting point for bids ranges from $125,000 to $475,000, will be auctioned off on Tuesday.
The clamor for the “guaranteed room options,” as they are called, is possibly the apogee of college efforts to wring extra revenue from well-heeled alumni on football game days. Already, most major universities require mandatory donations, usually thousands of dollars, for fans wanting premium season tickets. Some schools sell licenses for primo parking spaces.
“These folks are working every single angle that they can possibly think of to squeeze more juice out of the athletic machine,” says John Gerdy, a former associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and author of several books on collegiate athletic reform. “On one hand, it’s brilliant.”
The guaranteed room options, or GROs, work much like the personal seat licenses now offered by many professional sports teams—only for hotel rooms rather than season tickets. At A&M, the holders will make a one-time, tax-deductible $100,000 donation to the university in exchange for the right to reserve a specific room on any day for the next 10 years. They also get a plaque engraved with their names on the door...