After a rocky introduction to new football seating policies, Michigan’s student fans have another change coming. On Tuesday, Hunter Lochmann, the University Athletic Department’s chief marketing officer, announced a major change to the men’s basketball season ticket policy in which students now have to claim tickets to individual games. This change is effective immediately, yet it comes months after students purchased season ticket packages. Nearly 4,500 students purchased ticket packages, but 3,000 seats are available to students each game. While this policy does makes sense, and may be the best option given the situation, it comes at an odd time since students already purchased tickets.
Lochmann argues that the main problem at basketball games is student attendance, saying that an average of 46.1 percent of student tickets were used per game in 2012-2013. In comments to The Michigan Daily Tuesday, Lochmann said, “We don’t want to play a guessing game of who’s coming.” While student turnout is obviously important, the problem lies in the fact that potentially 1,500 students will not have seats at basketball games for tickets they thought were guaranteed as part of their ticket package. The Athletic Department should admit fault here; they oversold tickets and therefore it’s not possible for every student who bought a ticket to attend every game. If student morale was the real issue, then they should have considered a policy change after this season ended.
Most importantly, students should have been more involved in the decision-making process. The president and vice president of the Central Student Government, Michael Proppe and Bobby Dishell respectively, were informed prior to the decision’s announcement, and the president of Maize Rage, Sasha Shaffer, met with Lochmann and two other department officials during the decision-making process. Though Shaffer and CSG leaders do represent the student body, there were other outlets available for the Athletic Department to gauge reaction better through forums or surveys.
The change to basketball season tickets is not inherently problematic. A similar ticket scheme has been implemented at schools like Indiana University, and given the short amount of time before the season begins, it may be the most effective. What is a problem, however, is that it’s part of a trend by the Athletic Department to make policy changes that affect a substantial percentage of the student body without consulting more than a handful of students.