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