Defending the Indefensible

Three games into this year’s college basketball season, the early verdict is in: The new CAA ticket policy so far is a disaster. Today, the Daily Tar Heel published attendance figures for the first three games of the past two seasons. The statistics show a massive drop-off in student attendance of games.

2009 Season

vs. Florida International – 53% of student tickets used.
vs. N.C. Central – 47% of student tickets used.
vs. Valparaiso – 24% of student tickets used.

2008 Season

vs. Pennsylvania – 65% of student tickets used.
vs. Kentucky – 85% of student tickets used.
vs. UNC-Asheville – 40% of student tickets used.

CAA director John Russell says that students are simply not taking advantage of other ways to get tickets. For example, he points to the fact that although 400 tickets were returned for redistribution for last Sunday’s game, only 20 were claimed. However, returned tickets are only distributed at 5:15 PM the day before a game. But for most heavily scheduled college students, going to a game is something that requires a bit of planning in advance. Not knowing whether you are going to get a ticket until the night before is a major inconvenience when planning schoolwork and other activities. It’s a simple truth that making it harder for students to get tickets is going to decrease attendance.

Russell continues to justify the new policy by arguing that students are now twice as likely to receive a basketball ticket. This is true, but they are also far less likely to find friends with tickets in the same phase, and are therefore less likely to use their ticket. CAA Associate Director Clint Gwaltney argues that the previous system of giving two tickets to each student was not working because tickets were still being unused, claiming that only 85% of student tickets were used for last year’s game against Kentucky and something had to be changed.

Russell argues that students can get tickets if they really want them. This is true. This was true last year too. But the issue is not whether you can get a ticket if you try hard enough, it’s whether it’s worth the trouble. And when it becomes more and more trouble, more and more students will decide that it’s not worth it.

The solution to this is not to make it harder for students to go to games. Common sense dictates that if people aren’t doing a certain thing, then making it harder for them to do that thing will not make them more likely to do it. You simply do not promote attending basketball games by making it harder to do.

4 comments

  1. It may be slightly more difficult to get a ticket, but in Mr. Russell's defense, there are several confounding variables you're not taking into account. First, we're probably not going to win a championship this year. As demonstrated by the Syracuse game, we're just not as good and thus less fun to watch.

    Further, all games are not created equal. Number-1-ranked UNC vs. Kentucky is not equal to number-4-ranked UNC vs. N.C. Central.

    Additionally, many of last year's players had been around for a while and the fans had made a deeper connection with them. Hansbrough had been a star for four years; Wayne, Ty, and Danny had all been stars for three years. The emotional connection takes time to build., and it's just not there yet, so people feel less connected to the current team.

    For all these reasons and others, give J-Russ a break. It'll probably pick up soon anyway. If it doesn't, maybe we should reconsider, but as of now, all this fuss is much ado about not very much.

    1. Exactly! I've only been to one game this year, and that was because Stephen scrounged up something like 6 tickets for my bible study and we still had to go lowest common phase. I hate making a 24 hour rush of emails, facebooking and phone calls to figure out who else has tickets, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

  2. I'm with Chris on this one. One doesn't have to compare Kentucky for the trend to still hold, there were still sizeable drops for the first and third games, those percentages are quite frankly embarrassing.

    If you want to talk about confounding variables.. the Penn game of 2008 happened at the same time that our football team played Maryland to clinch a division title, and the UNC-Asheville game was the Sunday of Thanksgiving break. I am a diehard of diehards, and I skipped both for those reasons. I don't buy for a second that attendance is down because we aren't as good; I've been here four years and never seen anything like the first three games of this year.

    I am it disbelief that CAA is blaming students for not taking advantage for available tickets. Essentially, they are asking students to overcome and fix the given failures of their ticket system.

    I think its obvious that for these games there does not need to be as many student tickets available. Lack of attendance isn't all on the CAA. But their policies make it a huge inconvenience for students who want to go to find tickets because of the inane inefficiency of distributing a commodity for free of effort. That does lower attendance some and it does create an unnecessary hassle.

    John Russell is a great guy, he gets off the hook only because Clint Gwaltney boxed him into a tight spot. Gwaltney should be fired for being an idiot and a failure.

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