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Chuck McGill: Numbers show WVU's Coliseum reseating plan is a success

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - When you're through changing, you are through.

Those seven words are commonly attributed to Bruce Barton, an American author, politician and master fundraiser. In 1925, Barton wrote a five-page letter to 24 of the wealthiest men in the country - bigwigs at DuPont, GM, GE and U.S. Steel, among others - and requested at least a $1,000 pledge from each man to fund education for 10 boys and girls.

Barton received 100 percent response.

Obviously, Barton's letter was persuasive. He convinced a couple dozen of the most powerful men in the United States to invest in something other than themselves. He implored them to change and they acquiesced.

Being an advocate of change doesn't always elicit the perfect response Barton received, as members of West Virginia University's athletic department can attest.

The department's two-year reseating plan for the men's basketball games at the Coliseum resulted in more than a few grumbles from long-time fans. This was expected, of course.

The WVU athletic department's plan to invoke change - to provide an equitable and transparent way to allocate tickets - will prove to be ultimately successful, despite the initial or any enduring displeasure of a few.

There's widespread contentment and approval of the new plan, which for the first time assures the highest-level donors their choice of seats at the Coliseum, which has a capacity of 14,000.

As of May 31, the deadline for Mountaineer Athletic Club donors to return their season-ticket intent forms, 1,352 new and returning donors submitted the necessary paperwork. Last season, 1,220 MAC donors requested season tickets.

The donors who sent in season-ticket intent forms for this coming hoops season requested a total of 5,718 tickets, an 8 percent increase from 5,131 for the 2012-13 season.

The uptick in MAC donors and number of tickets requested is obviously encouraging and will provide a revenue boost for the athletic department, but it should also help generate more money through gifts for WVU at a time when dollars are needed to keep pace in the Big 12.

The surge also reinforces the notion that the reseating plan was, in fact, necessary. After all, one might anticipate this type of change combined with the aftereffects of a 13-19 season to lead to a decrease of interest and ticket sales. The numbers, across the board, point to the contrary.

"We've never had a transparent process," said Matt Borman, the executive director of the Mountaineer Athletic Club. "Now if our donors give a gift they know they are going to be treated the way they need to be treated."

That means donors will finally have seats commensurate with their level of support.

There are nine levels of giving ranging from Mountaineer Scholars ($25,000 and up) to Buckskin ($100-$399). The seat selection process will begin July 15 with Mountaineer Scholars and continue through each level until the reseating process is complete. Donors, faculty and staff will receive appointment times and instructions in the mail later this month.

Borman admitted there has been blowback at times, but he and his staff have worked tirelessly to educate donors and alleviate concerns.

"We planned this out for two years," he said. "One of the reasons we heard so many complaints is because we put ourselves out there. We had a plan from the get-go to give everybody the opportunity to go over the process with us, to come in if they had any complaints or if they thought our information was incorrect.

"Most ended up feeling good because the reseating process is improving their seats and they didn't realize that was going to happen."

Borman said West Virginia is one of the last schools to go through a reseating process. He had experience with it during stops at Old Dominion and James Madison, along with WVU's assistant athletic director of major gifts, Ben Murray, who worked at the same schools.

Kevin Miller, WVU's assistant athletic director of annual giving, took part in the reseating process at Georgia State and UCF.

WVU athletic department officials studied reseating processes at comparable schools - like Virginia, Virginia Tech and Kansas - before embarking on this after Oliver Luck took over as athletic director and gave the green light.

He saw the need for change.

Now WVU is turning change into dollars.

Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at chuck.mcgill@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.


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