If second-year Michigan basketball coach Tommy Amaker ever had a honeymoon period of support from students, it’s over now.

That’s according to the latest numbers from the Michigan ticket office, which show that just 601 student season ticket packages have been sold so far this season – representing a 20 percent decrease in sales at this time last season, when students had purchased 748 packages.

Despite a $26 decrease in price for the full-season packages, student ticket sales are on pace to be at their second lowest total in the past decade and just a few more than the 594 sold in former coach Brian Ellerbe’s final season in 2000-01, when the Wolverines finished 10-18.

This comes as a surprise to Michigan Marketing Director Tom Brooks, who said he actually expected an increase in student ticket sales due to the buzz created by Amaker’s top-10 recruiting class.

“But when you have an 11-18 team the year before, it’s hard to create buzz,” LSA senior and Michigan Super Fan Brian Groesser said. “It is hard to create buzz based on potential. But if they get off to a great start, you never know.”

Brooks said potentially more students come in and purchase packages in what he calls the “last-minute rush” up until the first regular season home game on Nov. 30.

But last year, the “rush” translated into 33 more ticket packages for a final total of 781. Plus, in the aftermath of the University’s self-imposed sanctions last week, a number of students have mentioned they would like to refund their packages and instead purchase single-game tickets. Michigan ticket manager Marty Bodnar said he has heard those types of concerns via e-mail, but no students have been refunded and Brooks said that will not happen.

“I don’t agree with (refunding tickets) because we’re going to play all games and still have the ability to compete for the Big Ten championship and I don’t think that should have an effect,” Brooks said.

In addition to this season’s postseason ban, the absence of any marquee games on Michigan’s home nonconference schedule have also affected ticket sales. The Wolverines travel to Duke and UCLA, but their most high-profile home games include Mid American Conference foes such as Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Bowling Green, along with matchups against Vanderbilt, Charleston Southern, San Francisco and Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne.

The Athletic Department announced tickets for the Wolverine’s only match-up with Michigan State Jan. 26 will go on sale today. An MCard is needed for purchase of up to four tickets at $17 apiece.

“It’s similar to a national trend, that if a school played a marquee nonconference schedule, it’d kill itself before the Big Ten season,” Brooks said. “I recognize that this is a young team and its good in a sense to build confidence and get some wins.”

“Wins and losses are the ultimate indicator of when fans start to show a lot of interest,” said Jason Winters, Michigan athletic department chief financial officer. “It takes time.”

Winters said the decrease in student ticket sales, along with the $450,000 the University is paying back to the NCAA for past tournament earnings, won’t affect the current Michigan program in the short run. He even said that the lack of student ticket sales can actually be beneficial financially since the department can charge the more expensive, regular rate for non-student tickets.

“But we’re not exactly expecting to sell out the arena, so that’s probably not going to be a big factor,” Winters said.

Groesser said he expects the Maize Rage student section will still make an impact, even if the numbers are dramatically down.

“I’d rather have 200 fans out there that are motivated and actually want to be there than 500 fans doing absolutely nothing and sitting on their hands,” Groesser said.

Amaker was unavailable for comment.

‘M’ student ticket sales

Year Coach Overall Full +

1992-93 Fisher 4,542 1,678

1993-94 Fisher 4,267 1,999

1994-95 Fisher 3,905 2,455 1995-96 Fisher 3,830 2,404 1996-97 Fisher 2,796 2,796

1997-98 Ellerbe 2,200 2,200 1998-99 Ellerbe 712 712 1999-00 Ellerbe 944 944 2000-01 Ellerbe 594 594

2001-02 Amaker 781 781

2002-03 Amaker * 601 601 * Sales as of Nov. 12

+ Split-season gave students a half-year ticket package and were available until the 1996-97 season.

n 3,100 total student tickets are available for each game.

SOURCES: Michigan Athletic Department, staff research

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