Monday, March 16, 2009

Tickets? Anyone Got Tickets?

Michigan has made the tournament for the first time in eleven years. This fact has been well documented by most news outlets and media people around the area for the past couple weeks. This is a big story: A once prominent basketball powerhouse escapes the hole they dug themselves with NCAA sanctions and are now back to basketball prominence. Every Michigan fans loves this story and loves the coverage it gets.

Here’s the problem: Up until Greg Gumbel called Michigan’s name and number on Sunday, a lot of people didn’t care. The Basketball dept. had to make student tickets free for over 60% of home games, and then bribe students with free pizza just to get them in the building. So, to reward the few fans that actually did buy season tickets this year, only season ticket holders are eligible to receive tournament tickets from the athletic department.

This effectively stalled ANY momentum the program had after holding a great Selection Show party Sunday night.

Let me explain: Michigan is given an allotment of tickets following their placement in the tournament (Let’s say Michigan is given 1,500 tickets for fans). Now, if Michigan only sold a couple hundred student season tickets, and those kids agreed to shell out the 73 bucks it will cost for a single ticket, that leaves about 1300 of tickets left over for the alumni season ticket holders in the “Blue Seats” at Crisler. The drive to Kansas City (Michigan’s first round site) is about 12 hours from Ann Arbor. Do you honestly believe alumni (and most students) will travel 12 hours to KC for a game we aren’t favored to win? And, in the event we do win, are faced with George Mason-like odds to beat Oklahoma? I mean, these are the same people Maize Ragers have to yell at in order for them to “stand up and applaud” during basketball games!

The scenario I have just presented is probably more unstable than the Tommy Amaker era. I get that. But here’s something else to keep in mind: Most of the students that bought season tickets this year are freshmen. The athletic dept. doesn’t release these stats, but you can tell by how many kids only have the current season’s Maize Rage T-Shirt as game-day attire. Upper classmen don’t buy tickets because the Juniors and Seniors in Ann Arbor are still trying to get over losing 4 straight games in ’07 to miss the tournament, and are still trying to forget about how badly Amaker butchered the career of Courtney Sims (aka the D-League MVP). These kids paid 120 dollars a season to watch Brent Petway practice for his future as a D-League Slam Dunk Champion.

The reasons they had to stop buying tickets were valid. The marketing department had to cater to a group that didn’t know any better (i.e. the 2012 class). But then how do you expect your freshman fan base to get to KC when most of them have nowhere to park a car on Michigan’s campus?!?!?

The worst part about this is that most Wolverine students didn’t buy season tickets at the beginning of the year because the tickets were FREE for all but three or four home games. That means you could have been a huge supporter of U of M Basketball, attended 13 home games this season, and not been eligible for a NCAA ticket. Yet, the student who bought the season tickets, and didn’t use/scalped his tickets, is now eligible for a trip to Kansas City.

The athletic department had to beg, plead, and even bribe students to attend these basketball games this year. Most times students were allowed in for free, and would be eligible for free M-Den goodies just for swiping their M-Cards. And, now that these students are willing to pay big bucks and travel 12 hours to see this team, the athletic department is telling them “No?” Awesome! There is 7 months of hard work in promotions and marketing down the drain.

Here is my solution: Allow the students that attended these games for free to have a crack at these tickets. If you are a student and attended a game, your M-Card was swiped for “reward points” purposes. They have these records lying around somewhere. Go back, find these numbers, and allow the kids who attended 11 of the 13 home games to be eligible for these tickets. This would open up the ticket base to those elder classmen, who actually cared enough about the program to brave the cold to walk to Crisler in the winter. These future alumni are the ones the Athletic Department should worry about winning over.

Michigan threw one hell of a party on Sunday. Crisler looked like it had electricity that hadn’t been there since Duke was handed their first loss in December. Some student fans were newer than others at the party. But they all wanted to be there to support Michigan Basketball.

I say we let them put their money where their mouth is.

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