UM evaluating low interest in basketball student tickets

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Students in the Maize Rage section cheer during the game against Houston Baptist in December.

The University of Michigan ticket office has reached out to students regarding a downward trend in basketball ticket requests.

According to an email published by the Michigan Daily, the student newspaper, the ticket office told students, "So far, men's basketball student ticket renewals are significantly lower than they have been in recent years."

The email, apparently sent to students who hadn't yet renewed for next season, says, "We would like to find out why so we can better serve future student ticket-holders."

Michigan basketball had a tough time with attendance this season, and not just with the students. There were large pockets of empty seats for almost all games, even the marquee games like Maryland and Michigan State.

According to Kurt Svoboda, associate athletic director, Michigan started a "student-engagement" team this year to open the lines of communication.

"We want to better understand the needs of our students and this survey will help determine what factors are involved in this year's renewal process," Svoboda said. "Input from our students is valuable in better understanding timelines, ticketing options and logistics."

A request for comment from athletic director Warde Manuel was forward to Svoboda.

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The "student-engagement" team has held town-hall meetings regarding football and basketball.

Svoboda said it's too early to tell how many Michigan students will hold tickets for 2016-17, as the deadline for tickets isn't until the summer.

Student tickets are remaining at $200 for 2016-17; for 2015-16, that got students 18 games.

For most games this past season, Crisler Center allocated about 25 percent of the capacity, or 2,530 seats, to students. For no games were all the student tickets claimed; the Michigan State game Saturday, Feb. 6, had the best claim percentage, at 77 percent (1,938), and the best actual student attendance out of the claims, at 88 percent (1,716). Maryland on Tuesday, Jan. 12, was close, at 71 percent (1,806) and 88 percent (1,593), as was Xavier on Friday, Nov. 20, at 64 percent (1,607) and 88 percent (1,408).

For games during winter and spring break, Michigan cuts down the student tickets substantially.

The home schedule could be one reason for the lack of enthusiasm. Outside of Xavier and the Big Ten slate, Michigan didn't have an appealing opponent at Crisler Center.

Michigan's nonconference schedule was Le Moyne (exhibition), Division II Northern Michigan, Elon, Xavier, Houston Baptist, Delaware State, Northern Kentucky, Youngstown State and Bryant.

Coach John Beilein said earlier this month he's comfortable with the scheduling, though he may reconsider opening against a Division II opponent, as those wins don't count in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

Future full Michigan basketball schedules aren't out yet, though the Wolverines will play at Cincinnati in 2016-17 and at home against Cincinnati in 2017-18 as part of a football-basketball contract signed years ago.